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Pteropid Bats are Confirmed as the Reservoir Hosts of Henipaviruses: A Comprehensive Experimental Study of Virus Transmission

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  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong, Australia; EcoHealth Alliance, New York; Veterinary Research Institute, Ipoh, Malaysia; Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Brisbane, Australia
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Bats of the genus Pteropus have been identified as the reservoir hosts for the henipaviruses Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV). The aim of these studies was to assess likely mechanisms for henipaviruses transmission from bats. In a series of experiments, Pteropus bats from Malaysia and Australia were inoculated with NiV and HeV, respectively, by natural routes of infection. Despite an intensive sampling strategy, no NiV was recovered from the Malaysian bats and HeV was reisolated from only one Australian bat; no disease was seen. These experiments suggest that opportunities for henipavirus transmission may be limited; therefore, the probability of a spillover event is low. For spillover to occur, a range of conditions and events must coincide. An alternate assessment framework is required if we are to fully understand how this reservoir host maintains and transmits not only these but all viruses with which it has been associated.

Author Notes

*Address correspondence to Alex D. Hyatt, Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Private Bag 24, Geelong, Victoria Australia 3220. E-mail: alex.hyatt@csiro.au

Financial support: This work was supported by a National Institutes of Health/National Science Foundation “Ecology of Infectious Diseases” award (R01-TW05869) from the John E. Fogarty International Center.

Authors' addresses: Kim Halpin, Life Technologies, Singapore, E-mail: kim.halpin@lifetech.com. Alex D. Hyatt, Deborah Middleton, and John Bingham, Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong, Australia, E-mails: alex.hyatt@csiro.au, deborah.middleton@csiro.au, and john.bingham@csiro.au. Rhys Fogarty, Flinders University, Flinders Medical Centre Bedford Park, Australia, E-mail: rhys.fogarty@flinders.edu.au. Jonathan H. Epstein, Tom Hughes, Peter Daszak, and the Henipavirus Ecology Research Group, EcoHealth Alliance, New York, NY, E-mails: epstein@ecohealthalliance.org, Tom.hughes@ecohealthalliance.org, and daszak@ecohealthalliance.org. Sohayati Abdul Rahman, Veterinary Research Institute, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah 31400 Ipoh, Malaysia, E-mail: sohayati@jphvri.po.my. Craig Smith and Hume E. Field, Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Animal Research Institute, Yeerongpilly, Australia, E-mails: craig.smith@deedi.qld.gov.au and hume.field@deedi.qld.gov.au.

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