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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Chloroquine for new bat viruses

17th March 2009

Hendra and Nipah are the names of two recently discovered viruses that scientists still do not understand.


They are thought to be carried and transmitted by flying foxes, a type of bat native to Australia.

Hendra can be spread when people come into contact with infected horses, their sores, or their faeces, and Nipah by people who come into contact with pigs.

While there is no known cure for the viruses, researchers suspect that a widely available antimalarial drug called chloroquine may be useful in treating them.

Anne Moscona of Cornell University led a research team in screening tens of thousands of chemical compounds for their ability to fight the disease.

She said that the drug works very well in vitro, and that the virus is completely inhibited from spreading at concentrations people would normally take in order to fight malaria.

She said that while the virus is still able to enter the cell at such concentrations, it loses its infectiousness upon exposure to the drug.

The researchers say that all that remains to be shown is that chloroquine also fights the infectiousness of the virus in animals, since the drug has already been tested and approved.

Hendra and Nipah are already serious health concerns in Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia, where they may be spread from animals to humans, though no cases of human-to-human transmission have yet been recorded.

An outbreak of Nipah in 1998-1999 claimed the lives of about 40% of the 257 patients infected with it.

As for Hendra, there have only been three known cases so far, and two of the sufferers died.

Both Hendra and Nipah are members of the Paramoxyviridae family of viruses.

Hendra is named after a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, and Nipah after a town in Malaysia.

Pierre Rollin of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, in order to save the patient, the drug must be administered before encephalitis causes the onset of neurological symptoms.

This would be difficult to do in rural areas, and researchers still cannot be sure whether or not chloroquine can fight the brain swelling that accompanies infection by the disease.

Rollin said that the new research meant big progress, and that, while it may not be able to save every patient, it could be used to treat family members of infected patients.

The drug chloroquine blocks infection in vitro by interfering with a protein the virus uses to infect new cells.

Previous drug investigations on the virus were inconclusive, though some studies showed that the drug ribavarin is also effective against the viruses.

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