Author(s): Smith I, Broos A, de Jong C, Zeddeman A, Smith C,
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Abstract Hendra virus (HeV) causes a zoonotic disease with high mortality that is transmitted to humans from bats of the genus Pteropus (flying foxes) via an intermediary equine host. Factors promoting spillover from bats to horses are uncertain at this time, but plausibly encompass host and/or agent and/or environmental factors. There is a lack of HeV sequence information derived from the natural bat host, as previously sequences have only been obtained from horses or humans following spillover events. In order to obtain an insight into possible variants of HeV circulating in flying foxes, collection of urine was undertaken in multiple flying fox roosts in Queensland, Australia. HeV was found to be geographically widespread in flying foxes with a number of HeV variants circulating at the one time at multiple locations, while at times the same variant was found circulating at disparate locations. Sequence diversity within variants allowed differentiation on the basis of nucleotide changes, and hypervariable regions in the genome were identified that could be used to differentiate circulating variants. Further, during the study, HeV was isolated from the urine of flying foxes on four occasions from three different locations. The data indicates that spillover events do not correlate with particular HeV isolates, suggesting that host and/or environmental factors are the primary determinants of bat-horse spillover. Thus future spillover events are likely to occur, and there is an on-going need for effective risk management strategies for both human and animal health.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense