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J Comp Pathol. 2000 Feb-Apr;122(2-3):201-7.

Experimental hendra virus infectionin pregnant guinea-pigs and fruit Bats (Pteropus poliocephalus).

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  • 1Division of Animal Health, CSIRO, Geelong, Victoria, 3220, Australia.


Antibodies to Hendra virus (HeV) have been found in a high percentage of fruit bats (Pteropus spp.) in Australia, indicating a possible reservoir for the virus. The aim of the experiments reported here was to investigate transplacental infection as a possible mode of transmission of the virus in fruit bats and other animals. In a first experiment, 18 pregnant guinea-pigs in the mid-stage of gestation were inoculated with HeV, as an experimental model in a conventional laboratory animal. Nine developed HeV disease as confirmed by viral isolation, histopathology and immunohistochemistry. In five of the nine clinically affected guinea-pigs there was necrosis and strong positive immunostaining in the placentas in an indirect immunoperoxidase (IPX) test for HeV antigen. One of these five guinea-pigs aborted and HeV was isolated from its three fetuses, one of which was also positive to the IPX test. In three other sick guinea-pig dams, virus was isolated from fetuses, and there was positive immunostaining in two of the latter. In a second experiment, four fruit bats were inoculated with a similar dose of HeV. (A further four guinea-pigs inoculated at the same time developed severe disease, indicating adequate virulence.) Two bats were killed at 10 days post-inoculation and two were killed at 21 days. In these bats, no overt clinical disease was observed, but subclinical disease occurred, as indicated by viral isolation, seroconversion, vascular lesions and positive immunostaining. Transplacental transmission was indicated by positive immunostaining in two placentas and confirmed by isolation of virus from one of the associated fetuses.

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