Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases

Brisbane, Australia

Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases

Brisbane, Australia
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Tozer S.J.,University of Queensland | Lambert S.B.,University of Queensland | Lambert S.B.,Queensland Health | Strong C.L.,Griffith University | And 4 more authors.
Zoonoses and Public Health | Year: 2014

Q fever is a vaccine-preventable disease; despite this, high annual notification numbers are still recorded in Australia. We have previously shown seroprevalence in Queensland metropolitan regions is approaching that of rural areas. This study investigated the presence of nucleic acid from Coxiella burnetii, the agent responsible for Q fever, in a number of animal and environmental samples collected throughout Queensland, to identify potential sources of human infection. Samples were collected from 129 geographical locations and included urine, faeces and whole blood from 22 different animal species; 45 ticks were removed from two species, canines and possums; 151 soil samples; 72 atmospheric dust samples collected from two locations and 50 dust swabs collected from domestic vacuum cleaners. PCR testing was performed targeting the IS1111 and COM1 genes for the specific detection of C. burnetii DNA. There were 85 detections from 1318 animal samples, giving a detection rate for each sample type ranging from 2.1 to 6.8%. Equine samples produced a detection rate of 11.9%, whilst feline and canine samples showed detection rates of 7.8% and 5.2%, respectively. Native animals had varying detection rates: pooled urines from flying foxes had 7.8%, whilst koalas had 5.1%, and 6.7% of ticks screened were positive. The soil and dust samples showed the presence of C. burnetii DNA ranging from 2.0 to 6.9%, respectively. These data show that specimens from a variety of animal species and the general environment provide a number of potential sources for C. burnetii infections of humans living in Queensland. These previously unrecognized sources may account for the high seroprevalence rates seen in putative low-risk communities, including Q fever patients with no direct animal contact and those subjects living in a low-risk urban environment. © 2013 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.


Breed A.C.,University of Queensland | Breed A.C.,Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency | Breed M.F.,University of Adelaide | Meers J.,University of Queensland | Field H.E.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

This study investigated the seroepidemiology of Hendra virus in a spectacled flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) population in northern Australia, near the location of an equine and associated human Hendra virus infection in late 2004. The pattern of infection in the population was investigated using a serial cross-sectional serological study over a 25-month period, with blood sampled from 521 individuals over six sampling sessions. Antibody titres to the virus were determined by virus neutralisation test. In contrast to the expected episodic infection pattern, we observed that seroprevalence gradually increased over the two years suggesting infection was endemic in the population over the study period. Our results suggested age, pregnancy and lactation were significant risk factors for a detectable neutralizing antibody response. Antibody titres were significantly higher in females than males, with the highest titres occurring in pregnant animals. Temporal variation in antibody titres suggests that herd immunity to the virus may wax and wane on a seasonal basis. These findings support an endemic infection pattern of henipaviruses in bat populations suggesting their infection dynamics may differ significantly from the acute, self limiting episodic pattern observed with related viruses (e.g. measles virus, phocine distemper virus, rinderpest virus) hence requiring a much smaller critical host population size to sustain the virus. These findings help inform predictive modelling of henipavirus infection in bat populations, and indicate that the life cycle of the reservoir species should be taken into account when developing risk management strategies for henipaviruses. © 2011 Breed et al.


Plowright R.K.,Pennsylvania State University | Plowright R.K.,University of California at Davis | Plowright R.K.,Alliance Trust | Foley P.,California State University, Sacramento | And 4 more authors.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2011

Anthropogenic environmental change is often implicated in the emergence of new zoonoses from wildlife; however, there is little mechanistic understanding of these causal links. Here, we examine the transmission dynamics of an emerging zoonotic paramyxovirus, Hendra virus (HeV), in its endemic host, Australian Pteropus bats (fruit bats or flying foxes). HeV is a biosecurity level 4 (BSL-4) pathogen, with a high case-fatality rate in humans and horses. With models parametrized from field and laboratory data, we explore a set of probable contributory mechanisms that explain the spatial and temporal pattern of HeV emergence; including urban habituation and decreased migration-two widely observed changes in flying fox ecology that result from anthropogenic transformation of bat habitat in Australia. Urban habituation increases the number of flying foxes in contact with human and domestic animal populations, and our models suggest that, in addition, decreased bat migratory behaviour could lead to a decline in population immunity, giving rise to more intense outbreaks after local viral reintroduction. Ten of the 14 known HeV outbreaks occurred near urbanized or sedentary flying fox populations, supporting these predictions. We also demonstrate that by incorporating waning maternal immunity into our models, the peak modelled prevalence coincides with the peak annual spill-over hazard for HeV. These results provide the first detailed mechanistic framework for understanding the sporadic temporal pattern of HeV emergence, and of the urban/peri-urban distribution of HeV outbreaks in horses and people. © 2011 The Royal Society.


Hayward J.A.,Burnet Institute | Hayward J.A.,Monash University | Tachedjian M.,CSIRO | Cui J.,University of Sydney | And 8 more authors.
Retrovirology | Year: 2013

Background: Betaretroviruses infect a wide range of species including primates, rodents, ruminants, and marsupials. They exist in both endogenous and exogenous forms and are implicated in animal diseases such as lung cancer in sheep, and in human disease, with members of the human endogenous retrovirus-K (HERV-K) group of endogenous betaretroviruses (βERVs) associated with human cancers and autoimmune diseases. To improve our understanding of betaretroviruses in an evolutionarily distinct host species, we characterized βERVs present in the genomes and transcriptomes of mega- and microbats, which are an important reservoir of emerging viruses.Results: A diverse range of full-length βERVs were discovered in mega- and microbat genomes and transcriptomes including the first identified intact endogenous retrovirus in a bat. Our analysis revealed that the genus Betaretrovirus can be divided into eight distinct sub-groups with evidence of cross-species transmission. Betaretroviruses are revealed to be a complex retrovirus group, within which one sub-group has evolved from complex to simple genomic organization through the acquisition of an env gene from the genus Gammaretrovirus. Molecular dating suggests that bats have contended with betaretroviral infections for over 30 million years.Conclusions: Our study reveals that a diverse range of betaretroviruses have circulated in bats for most of their evolutionary history, and cluster with extant betaretroviruses of divergent mammalian lineages suggesting that their distribution may be largely unrestricted by host species barriers. The presence of βERVs with the ability to transcribe active viral elements in a major animal reservoir for viral pathogens has potential implications for public health. © 2013 Hayward et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Smith C.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | Skelly C.,Biosecurity Intelligence Unit | Skelly C.,GIS People Pty Ltd | Kung N.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Hendra virus causes sporadic but typically fatal infection in horses and humans in eastern Australia. Fruit-bats of the genus Pteropus (commonly known as flying-foxes) are the natural host of the virus, and the putative source of infection in horses; infected horses are the source of human infection. Effective treatment is lacking in both horses and humans, and notwithstanding the recent availability of a vaccine for horses, exposure risk mitigation remains an important infection control strategy. This study sought to inform risk mitigation by identifying spatial and environmental risk factors for equine infection using multiple analytical approaches to investigate the relationship between plausible variables and reported Hendra virus infection in horses. Spatial autocorrelation (Global Moran's I) showed significant clustering of equine cases at a distance of 40 km, a distance consistent with the foraging 'footprint' of a flying-fox roost, suggesting the latter as a biologically plausible basis for the clustering. Getis-Ord Gi* analysis identified multiple equine infection hot spots along the eastern Australia coast from far north Queensland to central New South Wales, with the largest extending for nearly 300 km from southern Queensland to northern New South Wales. Geographically weighted regression (GWR) showed the density of P. alecto and P. conspicillatus to have the strongest positive correlation with equine case locations, suggesting these species are more likely a source of infection of Hendra virus for horses than P. poliocephalus or P. scapulatus . The density of horses, climate variables and vegetation variables were not found to be a significant risk factors, but the residuals from the GWR suggest that additional unidentified risk factors exist at the property level. Further investigations and comparisons between case and control properties are needed to identify these local risk factors. © 2014 Smith et al.


McMichael L.A.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | McMichael L.A.,University of Queensland | Edson D.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | Field H.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases
EcoHealth | Year: 2014

Flying-foxes (pteropid bats) are the natural host of Hendra virus, a recently emerged zoonotic virus responsible for mortality or morbidity in horses and humans in Australia since 1994. Previous studies have suggested physiological and ecological risk factors for infection in flying-foxes, including physiological stress. However, little work has been done measuring and interpreting stress hormones in flying-foxes. Over a 12-month period, we collected pooled urine samples from underneath roosting flying-foxes, and urine and blood samples from captured individuals. Urine and plasma samples were assayed for cortisol using a commercially available enzyme immunoassay. We demonstrated a typical post-capture stress response in flying-foxes, established urine specific gravity as an attractive alternative to creatinine to correct urine concentration, and established population-level urinary cortisol ranges (and geometric means) for the four Australian species: Pteropus alecto 0.5-305.1 ng/mL (20.1 ng/mL); Pteropus conspicillatus 0.3-370.9 ng/mL (18.9 ng/mL); Pteropus poliocephalus 0.3-311.3 ng/mL (10.1 ng/mL); Pteropus scapulatus 5.2-205.4 ng/mL (40.7 ng/mL). Geometric means differed significantly except for P. alecto and P. conspicillatus. Our approach is methodologically robust, and has application both as a research or clinical tool for flying-foxes, and for other free-living colonial wildlife species. © 2014 International Association for Ecology and Health.


McFarlane R.,Australian National University | Becker N.,Australian National University | Field H.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Hendra virus is a recently emerged bat-borne zoonotic agent with high lethality in horses and humans in Australia. This is a rare disease and the determinants of bat to horse transmission, including the factors that bring these hosts together at critical times, are poorly understood. In this cross-disciplinary study climatic and vegetation primary productivity variables are compared for the dispersed and heterogenic 1994-2010 outbreak sites. The significant occurrence of spillover events within the dry season (p = 0.013, 95% CI (0.57-0.98)) suggests seasonal forcing of transmission across species, or seasonal forcing of virus excretion by the reservoir host. We explore the evidence for both. Preliminary investigations of the spatial determinants of Hendra disease locations are also presented. We find that postal areas in the Australian state of Queensland in which pteropid fruit bat (flying fox) roosts occur are approximately forty times more likely (OR = 40.5, (95% CI (5.16, 317.52)) to be the location of Hendra spillover events. This appears to be independent of density of horses at these locations. We consider issues of scale of host resource use, land use change and limitations of existing data that challenge analysis and limit further conclusive outcomes. This investigation of a broad range of potential climatic and environmental influences provides a good base for future investigations. Further understanding of cross-species Hendra virus transmission requires better understanding of flying fox resource use in the urban-rural landscape. © 2011 McFarlane et al.


Marsh G.A.,CSIRO | de Jong C.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | Barr J.A.,CSIRO | Tachedjian M.,CSIRO | And 12 more authors.
PLoS Pathogens | Year: 2012

The genus Henipavirus in the family Paramyxoviridae contains two viruses, Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV) for which pteropid bats act as the main natural reservoir. Each virus also causes serious and commonly lethal infection of people as well as various species of domestic animals, however little is known about the associated mechanisms of pathogenesis. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of a new paramyxovirus from pteropid bats, Cedar virus (CedPV), which shares significant features with the known henipaviruses. The genome size (18,162 nt) and organization of CedPV is very similar to that of HeV and NiV; its nucleocapsid protein displays antigenic cross-reactivity with henipaviruses; and it uses the same receptor molecule (ephrin- B2) for entry during infection. Preliminary challenge studies with CedPV in ferrets and guinea pigs, both susceptible to infection and disease with known henipaviruses, confirmed virus replication and production of neutralizing antibodies although clinical disease was not observed. In this context, it is interesting to note that the major genetic difference between CedPV and HeV or NiV lies within the coding strategy of the P gene, which is known to play an important role in evading the host innate immune system. Unlike HeV, NiV, and almost all known paramyxoviruses, the CedPV P gene lacks both RNA editing and also the coding capacity for the highly conserved V protein. Preliminary study indicated that CedPV infection of human cells induces a more robust IFN-β response than HeV. © 2012 Marsh et al.


Mahalingam S.,Griffith University | Herrero L.J.,Griffith University | Playford E.G.,University of Queensland | Spann K.,University of Queensland | And 7 more authors.
The Lancet Infectious Diseases | Year: 2012

Hendra virus, first identified in 1994 in Queensland, is an emerging zoonotic pathogen gaining importance in Australia because a growing number of infections are reported in horses and people. The virus, a member of the family Paramyxoviridae (genus Henipavirus), is transmitted to horses by pteropid bats (fruit bats or flying foxes), with human infection a result of direct contact with infected horses. Case-fatality rate is high in both horses and people, and so far, more than 60 horses and four people have died from Hendra virus infection in Australia. Human infection is characterised by an acute encephalitic syndrome or relapsing encephalitis, for which no effective treatment is currently available. Recent identification of Hendra virus infection in a domestic animal outside the laboratory setting, and the large range of pteropid bats in Australia, underpins the potential of this virus to cause greater morbidity and mortality in both rural and urban populations and its importance to both veterinary and human health. Attempts at treatment with ribavirin and chloroquine have been unsuccessful. Education, hygiene, and infection control measures have hitherto been the mainstay of prevention, while access to monoclonal antibody treatment and development of an animal vaccine offer further opportunities for disease prevention and control. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Kung N.Y.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | Field H.E.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | McLaughlin A.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | Edson D.,Queensland Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases | Taylor M.,University of Western Sydney
One Health | Year: 2015

The urban presence of flying-foxes (pteropid bats) in eastern Australia has increased in the last 20. years, putatively reflecting broader landscape change. The influx of large numbers often precipitates community angst, typically stemming from concerns about loss of social amenity, economic loss or negative health impacts from recently emerged bat-mediated zoonotic diseases such as Hendra virus and Australian bat lyssavirus. Local authorities and state wildlife authorities are increasingly asked to approve the dispersal or modification of flying-fox roosts to address expressed concerns, yet the scale of this concern within the community, and the veracity of the basis for concern are often unclear. We conducted an on-line survey to capture community attitudes and opinions on flying-foxes in the urban environment to inform management policy and decision-making. Analysis focused on awareness, concerns, and management options, and primarily compared responses from communities where flying-fox management was and was not topical at the time of the survey. While a majority of respondents indicated a moderate to high level of knowledge of both flying-foxes and Hendra virus, a substantial minority mistakenly believed that flying-foxes pose a direct infection risk to humans, suggesting miscommunication or misinformation, and the need for additional risk communication strategies. Secondly, a minority of community members indicated they were directly impacted by urban roosts, most plausibly those living in close proximity to the roost, suggesting that targeted management options are warranted. Thirdly, neither dispersal nor culling was seen as an appropriate management strategy by the majority of respondents, including those from postcodes where flying-fox management was topical. These findings usefully inform community debate and policy development and demonstrate the value of social analysis in defining the issues and options in this complex human-wildlife interaction. The mobile nature of flying-foxes underlines the need for a management strategy at a regional or larger scale, and independent of state borders. © 2015 .

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