Pro MED Posting, May 20, 1999
Tree shrew theory
Nipah virus, natural history (03)
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 10:30:01 +0100
Concerning the natural reservoir of Nipah virus. Local researchers appear to concentrate entirely on facts that are known about Hendra virus, although the biological properties (host range, transmission, disease, etc.) of Nipah virus seem to be rather different from Hendra virus and similar to Menangle virus (isolated in 1997 in New South Wales, Australia, where it caused an epidemic in pigs and influenza-like illness in two humans).
Only recently we have isolated and characterized a novel paramyxovirus from an apparently healthy tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri) that had been captured in 1978 in the area around Bangkok [Thailand]. The nucleotide sequences of the N and P/C/V genes of this Tupaia paramyxovirus (TPMV) are now available (GenBank Accession No. AF079780) and the results will appear in one of the next issues of the journal Virology. Highest amino-acid sequence homologies were found between TPMV and Hendra virus. As there are a lot of tree shrews in the geographic area where Nipah virus was detected I would suggest to regard these animals as a potential natural reservoir.
Christian A. Tidona
[This is an interesting suggestion. Note, however, that Menangle virus has a clearly different nucleotide sequence from Hendra & Nipah viruses. - Mod.JW]