Poster Presentation 64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association 2015

Natural Hendra virus infection in flying-foxes, tissue tropism and risk factors. (#148)

Lauren Goldspink 1 , Dan Edson 1 , Miranda Vidgen 2 , John Bingham 3 , Craig Smith 1 , Hume Field 1 4
  1. Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Coopers Plains, QLD, Australia
  2. School of Health and Sport Science, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, QLD, Australia
  3. Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Geelong, VIC, Australia
  4. EcoHealth Alliance, New York City, NY, United States of America

Hendra virus (HeV) is a lethal zoonotic agent that emerged in 1994 in Australia. Pteropid bats (flying-foxes) are the natural reservoir. To date, HeV has spilled over from flying-foxes to horses on 51 known occasions, and from infected horses to close-contact humans on five occasions. We undertook screening of archived bat tissues for HeV by reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Tissues were tested from 310 bats including 295 Pteropodiformes and 15 Vespertilioniformes. HeV was detected in 20 (6.4%) individual flying-foxes from various tissues including spleen, kidney, liver, lung, placenta and blood components. Detection was significantly higher in Pteropus alecto and P. conspicillatus, identifying species as a risk factor for infection. Further, our findings indicate that HeV has a predilection for the spleen, suggesting this organ plays a vital role in HeV infection. The lack of detections in the foetal tissues of HeV-positive females suggests that vertical transmission is not a regular mode of transmission in naturally infected flying-foxes, and that placental and foetal tissues are not a significant source of infection for horses. A better understanding of HeV tissue tropism will strengthen management of the risk of spillover from flying-foxes to horses and ultimately humans.