The Sun, 28 June 2007
CANBERRA (June 27, 2007): A new respiratory disease that causes flu-like symptoms may be spread by bats, according to Australian scientists who discovered the virus in three members of a family in Malaysia last year.
The so-called Melaka virus infected a 39-year-old man, who passed it to two of his five children several days later.
He was probably infected by a bat that flew into his home in Malacca state while he was watching TV, said Linfa Wang, who led an investigation for Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).
"The recent tendency of bat viruses to jump into humans has become more frequent," Wang said today in a telephone interview from the CSIRO's Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.
Bats and other animals are the source of three of every four new infectious diseases afflicting humans, Wang said, reports Bloomberg.
Researchers from CSIRO's laboratory in Geelong were the first to identify the Hendra virus, which killed 14 racehorses and their trainer in Australia in 1994. Hendra was also linked with bats.
Melaka virus is closely related to two other viruses known to be spread by bats: the Nelson Bay and Pulau viruses. Both are so-called Respiratory Enteric Orphan viruses first isolated in humans in the early 1950s and so named because they weren't associated with any known disease.
"Hundreds, if not thousands" of blood samples from humans with undiagnosed viral illnesses will be
studied in Australia and Malaysia to screen for previous cases of the disease, Wang said. The research is published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Bats will also be tested to confirm if they are the source of the virus. A vaccine may be developed if surveillance shows it's widespread, he said.
The infected man and his children recovered from the disease, suggesting the virus isn't lethal, Wang said. While the man reported no physical contact with the bat, he may have caught the virus from any secretions it left in the house, Wang said.
Zoonotic Diseases are diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between (or are shared by) animals and humans.
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