News & Media Releases

Aug, 17 2022 | News

Antibodies to Filovirus discovered in Australian Bat Species

Tests undertaken by CSIRO researchers on blood samples taken over several years from Australian bats have indicated that some bats have an immune response to a filovirus.

Some filoviruses found overseas can cause disease including fever and bleeding.

The blood samples were collected from bats at eight sites between 2005 and 2017. Further analysis by CSIRO researchers found antibodies to filoviruses in some of the samples, which means the bats had been exposed to an unknown filovirus at some point in their lives.

These findings are consistent with results in other countries including Singapore, India, China, the Philippines, Trinidad and Bangladesh, where filovirus antibodies had been found in bats, but with no reports of filovirus associated disease in people.

A small number of the Australian bat samples showed antibodies that reacted to two filoviruses, known as Ebola and Reston, however, as the antibody testing is not very specific, it’s likely that another unknown filovirus is present.

The CSIRO researchers advised that more research was needed to better understand filoviruses in bats in Australia, and that it is too early to know if the virus could be a risk to humans or other animals.

The CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) undertakes real-time surveillance to increase knowledge and national response capabilities to support disease preparedness.

Bats are a critical part of the Australian environment. Flying-foxes pollinate native trees and plants and spread their seeds. Without bats, Australia wouldn’t have its eucalypt forests, rainforests and melaleucas. Smaller microbats eat insects, helping to control pest numbers. All Australian bat species are protected, and a number of flying-fox and microbat species are also listed as threatened.

As with all wildlife, bats should not be handled by members of the public, and sick or injured bats should be reported a wildlife care organisation or vet.

Australia recognises the importance of wildlife health. Wildlife Health Australia is its peak body and coordinates widespread networks of national, state, territory and local wildlife experts to undertake detailed surveillance of the state of health of Australia’s wildlife.

The Journal of General Virology
For enquiries to CSIRO: Sian Stringer | 0459 890 423 | sian.stringer@csiro.a


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