- News Home
12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
- About Us
What Makes Bat Viruses So Deadly?
2 August 2012 5:00 pm
When it comes to harboring viruses deadly to humans, bats are grand champions. The flying mammals are the reservoir for everything from rabies to Ebola. Now, scientists have found a new virus hosted by bats, one that doesn't seem to be able to cause disease in other animals. The discovery may provide clues to what enables some viruses to cause severe disease.
The new Cedar virus is named after the town of Cedar Grove in Queensland, Australia, where it was found in 2009. Australian scientists discovered it in urine from bat colonies while screening for the Hendra virus. Hendra and its close viral cousin Nipah are henipaviruses that kill between 40% and 100% of the animals and humans they infect, making them among the most deadly viruses known. In the laboratory, the team found that Cedar virus could infect ferrets and guinea pigs—the animals produced infection-fighting antibodies to the virus. However, they did not become clinically ill. What's more, there are no recorded cases in humans.
A genetic analysis revealed that the Cedar virus is also a henipavirus—but with a key difference. Unlike other henipaviruses, the Cedar virus does not produce what is called V protein. The V protein gives the Hendra and Nipah viruses the ability to evade the human immune system, making them deadly. By comparing the lethal and benign henipaviruses, "We may gain insights into what makes Hendra so dangerous," says molecular virologist Glenn Marsh of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong. Marsh and his colleagues report their findings in a paper appearing online today in PLoS Pathogens.
The team's focus on the V protein is "intriguing, and deserves to be followed up," says Benhur Lee, a microbiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine.
Marsh says his team plans to conduct follow up experiments. "Using genetic engineering it may be possible to modify the virus so it does produce the V protein or alternatively put the gene from Hendra virus into Cedar virus and see if that makes the virus pathogenic." Lee warns, however, that even if the V gene does help make henipaviruses so dangerous, it's probably not the only gene responsible.