From: Lam Sai Kit, Kenneth

Date: Saturday, June 24, 2000 7:32 AM

Reservoir of Nipah Virus Identified

Surveillance of wildlife species for evidence of the origin of Nipah virus was conducted during and immediately after the 1999 outbreak of viral encephalitis in Malaysia. The Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh working in close collaboration with the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong and CDC, Atlanta found neutralizing antibodies to Nipah virus in Island flying foxes (Pteropus hypomelanus) and the Malayan flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) as well as other bat species, but to a lesser extent. Blood and tissue samples were negative by virus isolation.

A recent expedition led Dr. K.B. Chua from the Department of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, resulted in over 1000 urine samples collected from the roost of the Island flying fox. One of the isolates in Vero cells produced characteristic cytopathic effect and reacted strongly with Nipah antibody and less so with Hendra and not at all to other paramyxoviruses. Subsequent selective positive amplification of the cDNA derived from the isolate with 10

primers pairs designed based on the published sequence of Nipah virus yielded PCR products of the expected size to those from human Nipah virus. Further sequencing of the genetic material is underway.

Since this species of fruit bat is migratory, it is possible for the virus to spread to countries in Southeast Asia because of overlapping bat populations. Although the Island fruit bat has been implicated as a natural reservoir of Nipah virus in this study, it does not exclude other bat species, or indeed other wildlife species, as reservoirs.

This finding will have important implications during the re-organization of the pig-rearing industry in Malaysia.


See Range of the Genus Pteropus

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