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BAT POO UNDER THE MICROSCOPE AS RESEARCHERS SEEK HENDRA VIRUS ANSWERS




Scientists have sniffed out a possible reason for the spread of the deadly Hendra virus and their noses are pointed towards bat droppings.

James Cook University researcher Gerardo Martin said he and his colleagues were looking at bat secretions to determine how long the virus stayed alive in certain conditions after being excreted.

"We know UV radiation is a very effective killing agent; if we find Hendra is gone a few hours after the sun hits it we could improve preventative strategies."

The movement of horses and grazing patterns during the feeding time of flying fox's in paddocks will also monitored using GPS trackers fitted to horses.

Between 1994, when the virus was first discovered, and 2005 Hendra infections in horses were relatively rare but have become more prevalent since 2006.

Mr Martin said although the virus was mainly found in the Townsville region, recent research determined areas in New South Wales including Kempsey and Macksville have been infected since 2006.

Afterwards, it was discovered that more cases were reported further south.

Mr Martin said although Hendra was unlikely to completely disappear as bats naturally played host to the virus, it was able to be managed.

Mr Martin said he and fellow researchers Dr Lee Skerratt and Dr Diana Mendez were "optimistic that it is manageable."

Despite the virus being easily transmitted from bats to horses, humans can only be infected if they have had direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected horse, not bats.

Research gathered determined the management of the virus should be a combination of strategies.

"We can make our management more effective by taking horses away from the areas where flying foxes are feeding, he said.

"We suspect that the virus is alive in these places."

It was also hoped the virus could be managed by relocating bat populations away from human settlement and vaccinating horses.

These proposals followed an unsuccessful attempt to disperse bat colonies in Cairns and Charters Towers as it was discovered bats could move elsewhere and create space for future colonies to inhabit the areas.

Due to the lack of cases reporting infected humans and horses, Mr Martin said the diagnosis of the virus was considerably hard to determine.

Horses were believed to develop a brain disease. However, it was difficult to determine whether the disease was a direct result from the Hendra virus.

Horses diagnosed with the virus had a 50-60 per cent death rate whereas bats developed absolutely no infection and were not impacted.

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Megabats and Microbats: BAT POO UNDER THE MICROSCOPE AS RESEARCHERS SEEK HENDRA VIRUS ANSWERS
BAT POO UNDER THE MICROSCOPE AS RESEARCHERS SEEK HENDRA VIRUS ANSWERS
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