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CSIRO Success With Hendra Vaccine Tests

Wednesday, 18th May 2011

A hendra virus vaccine for horses “could be available as early as next year, after the CSIRO had early success with testing” reported abc.net.au last night. Hendra virus was first identified in Brisbane in 1994 (after it killed trainer Vic Rail & several of his horses); since then, 14 horses are known to have contracted the virus (all having died or been put down because of the risk) & 7 people have been confirmed with the virus (4 of them have died). CSIRO pathologist Dr Deborah Middleton (based at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong in Victoria) revealed the breakthrough at a veterinary conference in Adelaide, explaining “the prospect of taking infected horses out of the picture will reduce the risk to humans”. Middleton noted: “All human infections have come about following contact with infected horses; so using immunisation of horses we have the potential to absolutely break the chain of transmission of hendra virus from flying foxes to horses to people.” But Middleton warned the hendra virus “is too aggressive to consider finding a treatment”, which “could not be administered in time to make a difference. Once a horse is actually recognised to be infected with the hendra virus, it's actually too late to do anything about it from the point of view of the horse. It's a particularly aggressive disease. This disease can kill a 600kg thoroughbred in 48 hours.” J4S Stud manager Debbie Brown (where Rockhampton veterinarian Dr Alister Rodgers died after treating a sick horse in 2009) commented: “This vaccine will make a difference to us in the respect that we know we can vaccinate our horses & we're going to be safe, because it's been something that's hung over our head always.” And Australian Veterinary Association president Dr Barry Smyth declared the prospect of a vaccine “is a massive boost for the industry” adding: “It's great news that the hard work at CSIRO seems to have had some pretty good results. It's come to fruition a lot earlier that we might have anticipated, so I think it's a real big pat on the back for all the people that have been involved.”

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