Researchers at the world's most advanced biosecurity research facility, CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory, are keeping the nation safe by studying RNA viruses that come from bats - Hendra, SARS, Ebola, and Nipah.
Dr Alex Hyatt says the Geelong lab's state-of-the art microscopy technology allows research with infectious disease agents that require the highest levels of biocontainment.
'We are talking about viruses here that if you are infected you are a gonner,' he said.
'There are no vaccines, they are pathogenic, they are deadly ... so we can look at the interactions in real time, live viruses in cells without risk of infection or death. And come to understand how viruses replicate in cells.'
Dr Linfa Wang says bats, the second most abundant animals on earth after rodents, are key to their research.
'Bats have been around for 60 million years so they somehow developed this symbiotic relationship with a virus and they can co-exist happily. The virus won't cause any disease in bats.'
Some scientists believe there is an ancestor form in bats of most of the modern viruses infecting humans and livestock.
The scientists want to watch live interaction in bats with viruses and how bat cells behave to see why they co-exist with the viruses without getting sick.
'We consider bats almost like a black hole, we have very limited understanding of this interesting group of mammal species,' Dr Wang said.
Professor Martyn Jeggo says their aim is to diagnose and respond to an emergency disease as fast as possible and research to mitigate or protect against disease.
But some viruses are just too risky to let in, including live foot and mouth virus, because it has the potential to devastate the livestock industry.
So the researchers are studying it in pigs in Vietnam, in sheep work in South Africa and in cattle work in Argentina.
The laboratory allows scientists around the world to work together in real time.
Source: Big Pond News