New faster test developed to detect Hendra virus in horses



A rapid diagnostic test to detect the deadly Hendra virus in horses has been developed by University of Sunshine Coast (USC) researcher Joanna Kristoffersen, working with a team from USC, the Queensland Department of Agriculture & Fisheries, Biosecurity Queensland and the CSIRO.

The new precise and sensitive test, which takes just 10 minutes to deliver a result, replaces what used to take up to 36 hours and means Hendra outbreaks can be identified, contained and managed much more efficiently than previously.

“Currently, if there is concern about a horse having the Hendra virus a vet will need to visit the property, take a sample and send it to the lab in Brisbane,” said Kristoffersen.

“Then the horse owner is up for a couple of days of anxious waiting, the horse may be suffering and if it is Hendra, it might mean a delay in treating the issue and preventing its spread.

“Our test works a bit like a pregnancy test so a vet can get the specific results onsite within 10 minutes.”

“As our test does not require samples to be transported or expensive laboratory equipment, we expect that it will prove significantly cheaper than current testing,” she said.

The Queensland chief scientist, Dr Geoff Garrett, said this is another example where Queensland researchers are making advances in science thanks to a collaborative approach.

“This innovative test is going to streamline diagnosis to better manage and restrict the spread of this potentially deadly virus.”

The hope is to have the new test on the market within two to three years.

Kristoffersen, who conducted the research as part of her Honours project with Dr Joanne Macdonald, is one of 10 of this year’s Queensland Fresh Science finalists.

Fresh Science is a national competition helping early career researchers find, and then share, their stories of discovery. The program takes up-and-coming researchers with no media experience and turns them into spokespeople for science—giving them a taste of life in the limelight—with a day of media training and a public event in their home state.

You can hear Kristoffersen explain her work in this short video.


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