Publication date: Oct 29, 2020
The infected pig is slaughtered and prepared by a chef, who passes the bat virus via a handshake to Paltrow (as Beth) – patient zero.
Named for the village Sungai Nipah in Malaysia, Nipah virus was first identified in 1999 after an outbreak in pigs that went on to infect nearly 300 people in contact with the pigs.
It was assumed the pigs contracted the virus by eating fruit contaminated by flying fox fruit bats.
Scientists later discovered small outbreaks of the virus in Bangladesh and India, with fruit contaminated with bat saliva or urine the most likely culprit.
-We suspect that Nipah virus has been spilling over to people for decades in Bangladesh,” says Dr Raina Plowright at Montana State University, who specialises in disease spill-overs that originate in bats, including Nipah virus.
He was infected with Nipah virus and went on to infect 18 other people at two hospitals.
Nipah virus belongs to a family (paramyxoviruses) that includes measles and mumps, both of which spread really well, notes Dr Rebecca Dutch, virologist at the University of Kentucky.
-If there were small changes in Nipah virus that enhanced its ability to spread from human to human, then we would be looking at a pandemic virus with a really high mortality rate. “
-The best theory would be that those viruses right now don’t generate a lot of infectious particles that are airborne or coming out of infected people as they breathe out,” Dutch adds – perhaps because they don’t get into the airway until late in the infection.
Scientists still debate over why bats seem to harbour so many viruses.
If there are more spill-over events from bats to people, this offers opportunities for Nipah virus to mutate in ways that allow it to one day hop more efficiently from person to person.
Covid-19 does not make a Nipah virus outbreak more or less likely, but it does put us on notice that we need to be better prepared for what is out there, he believes.
Dutch rejects the idea of the Covid-19 pandemic is a once in a century event, noting we have just finished the worst Ebola outbreak in Africa, we had Zika virus emerge, we had the 2009 flu pandemic and now we have Covid-19.
The Nipah virus candidate contains part of the surface protein of Hendra virus, a closely related virus from fruit bats that sporadically infects and kills horses and people in Australia.
The scientists investigated how similar the docking protein (ACE2) that the virus uses to latch onto cells is between humans and 410 animal species.
More unexpected was that whales and dolphins (cetaceans) scored as at high risk due to the similarity of their ACE2 receptor, which suggests that the virus may be able to infect their cells.
Also, in cases where SARS-CoV-2 has infected mink, cats, dogs and hamsters, the virus may have entered using the ACE2 receptor, or it may have entered their cells another way.
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