Hendra Virus Vaccine - Presentation by Dr Deborah Middleton

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In September 1994 the sudden death of a horse trainer and 14 of his horses alerted the world to the presence of a new virus. This virus represented a new genus in the Paramyxoviridae family and was named Hendra after the suburb where the first cases were found. Bats were identified as the host for the virus.

Since its discovery seven humans have been infected with four deaths. Between 1994 and 2010 there have been 14 clusters of cases in horses, but in 2011 there was an unprecedented spike in the number of cases in horses in both Queensland and NSW and the first report of a dog being infected. In addition reports of cases west of the Great Dividing Range shattered the perception that inland horse communities were safe.

The effect of these outbreaks on the horse industry has been devastating, resulting in calls for the development of a vaccine. In May 2011 CSIRO announced the development of a Hendra virus vaccine for horse and plans for animal trials. This important development has the potential to break the cycle of virus transmission from flying foxes to horses and then to humans.

The vaccine was released this month for use in horses marking the end of a multinational collaboration into Hendra virus. Dr Deborah Middleton led the team from the Australian Animal Health Laboratories (AAHL) which discovered the virus and pioneered the vaccine project.

Have you ever wondered about this intriguing virus and the “virus hunting” which led to the vaccine and some of the reasons behind funding a vaccine (the US government invested in the research as it provided insight into a related virus with potential as a biological warfare agent!)

Dr Middleton kindly provided us some insight into the virus and the production of the vaccine during a presentation at Westmead on 27 November 2012.

Click here to view a copy of Dr Middleton's presentation