Scientists closer to Hendra virus cure

Christine Flatley

Scientists are one step closer to protecting people from the deadly Hendra and Nipah viruses after successfully trialling a treatment on humans.

Four people have died from Hendra virus, which was discovered in Brisbane in 1994 after an outbreak of illness in race horses.

The virus can spread from flying foxes to horses, horses to horses and rarely, from horses to people.

The deaths and a spike in the number of equine Hendra infections in 2012 prompted scientists to fast-track a trial of a treatment in human participants.

Forty volunteers took part in the trial, which found the Hendra virus monoclonal antibody m102.4 was well-tolerated.

The trial also concluded m102.4 had the potential to treat infections with Nipah virus, a highly lethal Hendra-like virus which emerged in southeast Asia in 1998.

Both viruses are on the World Health Organisation's list of priority diseases needing urgent attention for research and development of therapeutics.

The trial results were published in the Lancet Infections Disease Journal this week.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the results were promising.

"Future studies will be needed to confirm the effectiveness of m102.4 for treatment and protection against different strains of the Hendra virus, particularly among populations living in settings where there is the potential for an outbreak," Dr Young said.