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Protecting aganst Hendra virus

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[Text on appears on screen: Protecting against Hendra virus]

1st Narrator:

Three quarters of all emerging infectious diseases of humans emanate from animals - Avian Flu, Ebola and SARS are just some.

The most deadly zoonotic disease in Australia is the Hendra virus.

2nd Narrator:

In September 1994, 14 horses died at a Brisbane stable from an unknown respiratory disease.

1st Narrator:

Brisbane racehorse trainer Vic Rail died after treating an outbreak of severe respiratory illness in his stables, which left 19 of his horses dead. He was the first victim of the newly emerging infectious disease, Hendra virus.

2nd Narrator:

The Queensland Department of Primary Industry introduced full quarantine restrictions and the industry recognised they had a major emergency on their hands.

1st Narrator:

A Hendra Virus Research team was immediately set up at CSIRO’s National Facility, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory to determine the origin of this highly pathogenic disease and the risk it posed to the community.

The horses were infected with the disease by bats, which harbour the Hendra virus. Close contact with horses is the only way the disease has transmitted to humans but once infected, humans have only a forty percent chance of survival.

Dr Deborah Middleton:

Well Hendra virus is one of the most deadly viruses that we’ve identified. About seventy-five percent of infected horses will die from the infection and about sixty percent of people who are affected by Hendra virus will also die.

1st Narrator:

The team’s first significant breakthrough was in fully sequencing the virus genome and identifying its structure. They also identified a new genus Henipavirus, which includes Nipah virus, a disease that has claimed hundreds of lives in Malaysia, Bangladesh and India.

Dr Deborah Middleton:

Hendra virus and Nipah virus are very closely related to each other. They form a separate little group in the virus family and probably the really transformational breakthrough was the discovery of which part of the Hendra virus particle is needed to cause infection in the host cell. And once that was characterized we were able to generate a way of blocking that infection.

1st Narrator:

The work posed daily risk for the researchers.

Dr Deborah Middleton:

Well the virus is a very dangerous virus but we do operate at the highest level of biocontainment, which is Biosafety Level 4. The main thing, or the most obvious thing is that we work in totally encapsulated suits with an independent breathing air supply. So we’re separating ourselves from any possible exposure to the virus.

1st Narrator:

In 2012 after the deaths of two equine veterinarians in Queensland the State and federal Governments commissioned the team, along with commercial partner Pfiser Animal Health - now Zoetis - to develop an effective Hendra virus vaccine.

After extensive trials, the vaccine Equivac was launched. The first licensed commercially available vaccine in the world for use against an agent that requires Physical Containment level 4.

Vaccine Launch New Conference - Mike van Blommestein:

Today we’re launching and very pleased to launch Equivac Hendra Vaccine, which will become a significant tool in the fight against the deadly Hendra Virus.

1st Narrator:

This was a strategic approach to protecting humans from the disease by targeting the virus at its source.

Dr Deborah Middleton:

There will be an ongoing need for a human post exposure therapeutic and so we’re continuing our work with the human monoclonal antibody as a treatment that can be given to people who are exposed to Hendra virus. Now that work has progressed very well and we are participating in a phase one clinical trial of that therapeutic in 2014.

1st Narrator:

The Equivac horse vaccine will save human lives and reduce the danger of more lethal strains or mutations emerging, while the antibody therapy will give those infected with the Hendra virus a better chance of survival.

The CSIRO Hendra Virus Vaccine team has become one of the world’s leading zoonotic disease research teams. It has made significant contributions, not only to combating the Hendra and Nipah viruses, but to understanding other important emerging viruses.

[The end]

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Collaborate with us on health and biosecurity projects

We're continuing to build our collaborative partnerships both locally and internationally with government, industry, universities, cooperative research centres and other national and international research agencies to help achieve health and biosecurity solutions that are pre-emptive, responsive, resilient, and based on cutting edge surveillance, informatics and other technologies.

Together our role is to provide the science:

  • to understand the risks we face from exotic pests and pathogens reaching our borders
  • to create new methods to help reduce the likelihood of exotic pests and pathogens entering Australia
  • to assist those at our border to target intervention of high risk items and pathways
  • to focus on preparedness, surveillance, monitoring and response within country
  •  to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of health services, creating a better health system for all Australians.

Research outcomes will better inform government decision making including policy development, threat characterisation, risk management, mitigation and emergency response.

Our research is supported by first-class facilities, including our Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong Victoria, which provides us with access to the most sophisticated and highest level of biocontainment in the world, and quarantine facilities in Canberra and Brisbane.

Our success relies on the strong partnerships we have formed and those we will continue to seek and grow into the future.


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