A potential new treatment for the Nipah and Hendra viruses, two lethal and emerging viruses for which there is currently no treatment or vaccine available has been identified by scientists.
The finding by scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College could also lead to new treatments for measles, mumps and influenza.
The Nipah and Hendra viruses are members of the genus Henipavirus, a new class of virus in the Paramyxoviridae family, which includes the measles and the human parainfluenza virus (HPIV) that causes pediatric respiratory disease.
The henipaviruses are carried by fruit bats (flying foxes) and are capable of causing illness and death in domestic animals and humans.
"These viruses are of great concern. The Hendra virus is highly fatal and is a considered a potential agent of bioterrorism. It currently poses a serious threat to livestock in Australia, where sporadic and deadly transmission to humans has occurred, with the potential for broader dissemination," says Dr. Matteo Porotto, the study's lead author
"And the Nipah virus, which causes fatal encephalitis in up to 70 percent of human cases, causes seasonal outbreaks in Asia with person-to-person transmission now becoming a primary mode of infection. This virus could certainly cause global outbreaks," Dr. Porotto said.
Dr. Porotto and colleagues present a new strategy to prevent and treat these infections that may be broadly applicable for other "enveloped" viral pathogens, characterized by an outer wrapping that comes from the infected host cell.
The new treatment was successfully tested in an animal model demonstrating central nervous system symptoms similar to those seen in humans.
The new research appears in today's edition of the prestigious journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Pathogens.