US scientists closer to Hendra virus vaccine, new study reveals

US scientists say a human antibody has been shown to protect lab monkeys from the deadly Hendra virus, which has killed 20 horses in NSW and Queensland since June.

Scientists said there were promising signs for the treatment of the bat-borne virus after research was carried out at a highly protected lab in Montana.

The Hendra virus, which was discovered in Australia in 1994, was last week declared endemic in NSW and Queensland after a recent surge in outbreaks.

There have been 18 outbreaks across both states this year, including eight in NSW.

Although no humans have been affected, four of the seven people ever to have contracted the disease have died.

Before this year’s extraordinary cluster, 14 horses had died since 1994.

The research, described in the journal Science Translational Medicine, was done at a high-security lab in Montana, where 14 African green monkeys were injected with Hendra virus.

Twelve of the monkeys were then treated with a human antibody called m102.4, and they all survived while the untreated pair died.

Earlier experiments on smaller animals have also shown efficacy from the antibody against Hendra virus.

After the US study on monkeys concluded in 2010, the antibody was injected in a woman and her 12-year-old daughter in Australia last year as an emergency protection for exposure to Hendra.

While the two survived with no side effects from the treatment, scientists say more study needs to be done before the antibody can be used as a widespread remedy.

“I think this is a very promising therapy, especially when you consider that it was still strong three days later,” said lead author Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Tourists feared exposed to fatal Australia virus

SYDNEY – AUSTRALIAN health officials urged tourists who visited a popular adventure ranch west of the Great Barrier Reef at the weekend to come forward after a horse died from from the killer Hendra virus.

Passed from fruit bats (flying foxes) to horses and highly fatal to humans, Hendra claimed the life of a horse at the Blazing Saddles adventure farm on Monday, west of the Reef gateway city Cairns.

At least six people were known to have had contact with the sick animal and Queensland health officials said they were working to determine how many others could have been exposed at the popular tourist site.

‘I would like to reassure any tourists or visitors to the property over the weekend that transmission of the virus requires close contact with body fluids of the sick horse,’ said Queensland health chief Jeannette Young.

‘Queensland Health staff will continue to undertake contact tracing work to ensure all people potentially exposed to the sick horse have been identified.

Anyone who had visited the ranch since last Thursday and had concerns were urged to call the public health hotline, she said. ‘Queensland Health stands ready to provide any assistance, counselling, information, testing or treatment that may be required,’ added Dr Young. — AFP

Tourists feared exposed to fatal Australia virus

You better watch out … for invasive species — Pacific Daily News

These beautiful winged animals were all over this island.

Then, the brown tree snake entered and changed our ecosystem forever. Most of the birds that were found only on Guam will never be seen again. They are gone forever because of one invasive animal.

Christmas opens the door for more invasive animals to show up on Guam.

Last week employees at Cost-U-Lessfound a tree frog that wasn’t supposed to be on Guam hiding in a Christmas tree. The poor little frog didn’t know he was doing anything wrong. He was just hiding.

His presence on the Christmas tree brings up a very real threat to Guam’s environment. Any time a new animal enters the ecosystem, it has an impact.