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Arch Virol Suppl. 2004;(18):97-111.

Emerging encephalitogenic viruses: lyssaviruses and henipaviruses transmitted by frugivorous bats.

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Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


Three newly recognized encephalitogenic zoonotic viruses spread from fruit bats of the genus Pteropus (order Chiroptera, suborder Megachiroptera) have been recognised over the past decade. These are: Hendra virus, formerly named equine morbillivirus, which was responsible for an outbreak of disease in horses and humans in Brisbane, Australia, in 1994; Australian bat lyssavirus, the cause of a severe acute encephalitis, in 1996; and Nipah virus, the cause of a major outbreak of encephalitis and pulmonary disease in domestic pigs and people in peninsula Malaysia in 1999. Hendra and Nipah viruses have been shown to be the first two members of a new genus, Henipavirus, in the family Paramyxoviridae, subfamily Paramyxovirinae, whereas Australian bat lyssavirus is closely related antigenically to classical rabies virus in the genus Lyssavirus, family Rhabdoviridae, although it can be distinguished on genetic grounds. Hendra and Nipah viruses have neurological and pneumonic tropisms. The first humans and equids with Hendra virus infections died from acute respiratory disease, whereas the second human patient died from an encephalitis. With Nipah virus, the predominant clinical syndrome in humans was encephalitic rather than respiratory, whereas in pigs, the infection was characterised by acute fever with respiratory involvement with or without neurological signs. Two human infections with Australian bat lyssavirus have been reported, the clinical signs of which were consistent with classical rabies infection and included a diffuse, non-suppurative encephalitis. Many important questions remain to be answered regarding modes of transmission, pathogenesis, and geographic range of these viruses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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