Author(s): Halpin K, Young PL, Field HE, Mackenzie JS
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Abstract Since it was first described in Australia in 1994, Hendra virus (HeV) has caused two outbreaks of fatal disease in horses and humans, and an isolated fatal horse case. Our preliminary studies revealed a high prevalence of neutralizing antibodies to HeV in bats of the genus PTEROPUS:, but it was unclear whether this was due to infection with HeV or a related virus. We developed the hypothesis that HeV excretion from bats might be related to the birthing process and we targeted the reproductive tract for virus isolation. Three virus isolates were obtained from the uterine fluid and a pool of foetal lung and liver from one grey-headed flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), and from the foetal lung of one black flying-fox (P. alecto). Antigenically, these isolates appeared to be closely related to HeV, returning positive results on immunofluorescent antibody staining and constant-serum varying-virus neutralization tests. Using an HeV-specific oligonucleotide primer pair, genomic sequences of the isolates were amplified. Sequencing of 200 nucleotides in the matrix gene identified that these three isolates were identical to HeV. Isolations were confirmed after RNA extracted from original material was positive for HeV RNA when screened on an HeV Taqman assay. The isolation of HeV from pteropid bats corroborates our earlier serological and epidemiological evidence that they are a natural reservoir host of the virus.
This article was published in J Gen Virol
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense