Scientist identifies two new animal viruses

Wednesday, 27 May 2009, 09:11 Hrs
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Sydney: A scientist in Australia has identified two new animal viruses, besides developing new tests for their detection and diagnosis.

Chris Cowled identified the new viruses - Middle Point orbivirus, found in cattle, and Stretch Lagoon orbivirus, found in mosquitoes - during his doctoral studies at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) Australian Animal Health Lab in Geelong, Victoria.

"For years, scientists have been studying well-established 'classical' diseases but history tells us that future epidemics are more likely to be caused by novel viruses, something new to science," Cowled said.

"By characterising novel viruses collected in the field and designing diagnostic tests, we are preparing for the diseases of the future.

"Using state-of-the-art technology, the aim of our research was to identify and characterise novel viruses that had resisted classification by traditional methods," he added.

The research involved lab studies as well as fieldwork and enabled the development of diagnostic tests that have since been used to identify more than 150 previously unidentified Middle Point and Stretch Lagoon viruses.

The new viruses are classified as arboviruses, meaning they are spread by biting insects. Through this research, Cowled found Middle Point is closely related to a Chinese virus and Stretch Lagoon orbivirus is an entirely new virus species.

Besides, these findings have had an immediate impact in several labs, with rapid diagnostic tests for both viruses being successfully integrated into a national virus surveillance programme. Neither of the viruses causes disease in livestock, said a CSIRO release.

Cowled's research is being presented at "Pathfinders: The Innovators Conference" in Canberra this week.
Source: IANS
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