The future of preventing and treating Nipah virus infection

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Nipah virus (NiV) is a recently emerged paramyxovirus that causes meningoencephalitis, severe respiratory distress and systemic vasculitis in humans with outbreak mortality rates ranging from 38 to 92% [1] and survivors frequently suffering from long-term neurological sequelae [2]. NiV was discovered in 1998 and has been responsible for nearly annual outbreaks throughout Southeast Asia. Fruit bats from the genus Pteropus (flying foxes) serve as the host for NiV in nature, and they can transmit the virus to humans through intermediate livestock hosts [3] or through contaminated date palm sap [4,5] followed by human-to-human transmission [6]. Advances in understanding the pathogenesis of NiV have occurred in the two decades since NiV was discovered [1,7–13], but little progress has been made in terms of preventing and treating human infections. This should be the focus of NiV research in the coming decade with three areas of synergizing emphasis: prevention through vaccination; prevention through modifying risk factors; and the development of therapeutics and techniques capable of treating patients currently infected to reduce morbidity and mortality.

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