Evidence of endemic Hendra virus infection in flying-foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus)-implications for disease risk management

Andrew C. Breed, Martin F. Breed, Joanne Meers, Hume E. Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study investigated the seroepidemiology of Hendra virus in a spectacled flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) population in northern Australia, near the location of an equine and associated human Hendra virus infection in late 2004. The pattern of infection in the population was investigated using a serial cross-sectional serological study over a 25-month period, with blood sampled from 521 individuals over six sampling sessions. Antibody titres to the virus were determined by virus neutralisation test. In contrast to the expected episodic infection pattern, we observed that seroprevalence gradually increased over the two years suggesting infection was endemic in the population over the study period. Our results suggested age, pregnancy and lactation were significant risk factors for a detectable neutralizing antibody response. Antibody titres were significantly higher in females than males, with the highest titres occurring in pregnant animals. Temporal variation in antibody titres suggests that herd immunity to the virus may wax and wane on a seasonal basis. These findings support an endemic infection pattern of henipaviruses in bat populations suggesting their infection dynamics may differ significantly from the acute, self limiting episodic pattern observed with related viruses (e.g. measles virus, phocine distemper virus, rinderpest virus) hence requiring a much smaller critical host population size to sustain the virus. These findings help inform predictive modelling of henipavirus infection in bat populations, and indicate that the life cycle of the reservoir species should be taken into account when developing risk management strategies for henipaviruses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28816
JournalPLoS One
Volume6
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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