Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hendra virus vaccine progress


Australian scientists have succeeded in developing an experimental vaccine to protect horses against Hendra virus.

Hendra virus (HeV) was first isolated in September 1994 from an outbreak at a training complex in Hendra (a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia) after which the virus was named.

During that initial outbreak 14 horses died. Seven other horses were found to have been infected and were humanely destroyed. Two humans were affected, one of whom died.

In five of the 14 known outbreaks, the infection has spread to people. The virus has killed four of the seven people infected.

Fruit bats (Pteropus spp), commonly known as flying foxes, have been identified as the natural host for the Hendra virus.

“Our trials so far have shown that the vaccine prevents the infection of horses with Hendra virus,” said Dr Deborah Middleton from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL).

Stopping the disease in horses could also help protect people from the disease.

"All the human infections have come from contact with infected horses," Dr Middleton explains. So if you can control the disease in horses, you break the transmission cycle to people as well as protecting the health of horses.

Studies so far have shown that the vaccine will prevent horses becoming infected. It also protects them from developing the disease and shedding the virus.

Further work, including field trials and product registration, is still required. However, if all goes well, the vaccine may be available as soon as 2012.

Dr Barry Smyth, President of the Australian Veterinary Association, said that both vets and horse owners would welcome the news on the vaccine.

“It’s important that veterinarians and horse owners continue with precautions that reduce the risk of spreading the virus and that they report suspected cases immediately,” Dr Smyth said.

Read more at:

No comments: