A veterinarian-led research project ‘Horses as Sentinels’ has identified a new strain of the deadly Hendra virus as the cause of a previously unexplained horse death in September 2015. The research team has developed updated diagnostic laboratory techniques capable of identifying the new strain, and will be sharing them with relevant laboratories. They have also established that the current Hendra virus horse vaccine is expected to be equally effective against the new strain of the virus.

As reported in horseyard.com.au the newly recognised variant has not been detected previously by routine biosecurity testing in horses. In addition, the new strain has been detected in grey-headed flying fox samples from Adelaide in 2013 and it shares ~99% sequence identity with the 2015 horse case strain. Partial sequences of the variant have also been detected in flying foxes in other states. Grey-headed flying foxes migrate and their range includes parts of southern Australia, which previous advice classed as low risk. Up until now, the original strain of Hendra virus has only been known to occur within the range of black flying foxes and spectacled flying foxes. Read more