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5th November 2009


Researchers have been working for 15 years, since trainer Vic Rail died from the disease to develop a treatment for the deadly Hendra virus.

A paper published on the 30 October 2009 in the journal PLos Pathogens explains that CSIRO and US scientists have discovered an antibody which blocks the virus from attaching to the cells in the small blood vessels.

“It actually binds on to the virus to prevent it from entering cells”, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane infectious disease expert Geoffrey Playford told the Courier Mail earlier this week.

“This is very exciting because this means that you can stop someone from getting the infection and because it’s a human antibody, it should be safe for use in humans. We don’t know yet, but it probably won’t be any good once someone’s already developed symptoms. You need to give it before they get sick.” Dr Playford went on to say.

A scientific team from the CSIRO and the US have led the experiments from the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong and have said that the findings are extremely encouraging.

“Our research clearly suggests that an effective treatment for Hendra virus infections in humans should be possible, given the very strong cross-reactive activity this antibody has against the Hendra Virus”, Dr Deborah Middleton from the CSIRO team explained.

Earlier CSIRO research established that Hendra Virus spreads from flying foxes and has regularly infected horses in Australia. Of the 12 equine outbreaks, four have led to human fatalities the most recent in September 2009, Rockhampton vet, Alistair Rogers.  It is believed that human infection is a result of close contact with the blood and/or mucus of infected horses.

So far all outbreaks have been recorded in Queensland, however the flying fox species that spreads the disease can be found down most of the east coast of Australia.

The antibody still needs to be prepared under proper manufacturing guidelines, carefully evaluated in animal models and safety tested for human use.


Source: CSIRO media release 30 Oct 2009