Menu
About Science
Study reveals why the leopard got its spots
Allergy risk linked to time of first trimester
Hubble reveals furthest galaxy yet
Scientists confirm water from lunar probe
Researchers power up tiny batteries
Plants clean air better than expected
Haiti fault capable of another big quake
Japanese man joins growing genome ranks
NASA releases report into balloon crash
Tree's ability to soak up CO2 has limits
Ground coffee helps robot get a grip
Assassin bugs lure arachnid snack
Research reveals spring in ostrich's step
Lizard gender bends at altitude
Study suggests early primates out of Asia
Flamingos boost their colour to find a mate
Globular clusters more than one-off event
Ancient Africans first to use sharp tools
Grass could turn toxic waste into energy
Earth-like planets may be common
Natural born cell killers
Fingers spot typo ahead of the brain
Ecofriendly styrofoam from milk and clay
Study proves exercise boosts immune system
Scientists warn of new polio virus strain
A virus closely related to polio is causing major outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease across the Asia-Pacific region.

In Lancet Neurology and Lancet Infectious Diseases this month, researchers from the UK, Asia and Australia warn that in some cases there are severe neurological complications; and there are fears that Australia is unprepared for an outbreak.

Enterovirus 71 was first identified in California, US, in the 1960s where it caused small outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth and neurological disease.

The virus has become of increasing concern since the late 1990s, researchers say, when regular epidemics starting occurring across the Asia-Pacific region, including one in Taiwan in 1998. That outbreak is thought to have involved millions of people; and 500,000 cases were reported in an outbreak in mainland China.

During an outbreak of the virus, which mostly affects children, the majority of those affected will have mild, self-limiting illness, researchers say, noting there is no effective anti-viral treatment or vaccine.

But a small proportion of those affected will rapidly develop severe and sometimes fatal neurological and systemic complications over days or even hours. These include aseptic meningitis, poliomyelitis-like acute flaccid paralysis and brainstem encephalitis.
No effective treatment available

Clinical microbiologist Professor Peter McMinn, from the University of Sydney and a co-author of one of the recent papers says it is likely the virus underwent a crucial genetic change at some point in the mid-1990s which improved the way it transmitted through communities and allowed it to create these large outbreaks.

Australia has already seen outbreaks of enterovirus 71, including one in Perth, Western Australia, in 1999, and in Sydney, NSW, in 2004.

The continent may have been somewhat protected due to the relatively high living standards of most of the community and a geographically disparate population, says McMinn, warning that there is no room for complacency.

Australia still doesn't have a nationally co-ordinated and funded system to monitor the disease.

"My concern is that it could cause a large epidemic and we won't be prepared," he says.

"I think that Australians, particularly parents, should be aware of this disease, it's a disease of great concern to parents in Asia because of the devastating effects in can have on children."

With no effective treatment available for enterovirus 71, the best hope of preventing the disease lies with teams of researchers in the region who are developing a vaccine, he says.

There are many vaccines under investigation and development, including inactivated whole-virus, live attenuated, subviral particle and DNA vaccines.

McMinn noted one vaccine in particular, being developed in China, which is due to enter Phase I clinical trials and could be available within three to four years.

He says he wants to see Australia support regional efforts to develop a vaccine, and would also like to see funding for a national surveillance system to monitor the virus in Australia.

Print
Researchers put spark into scramjets
Fish found making their own 'mozzie' nets
Japan confirms asteroid dust on outback probe
Genetech pioneer awarded science prize
Scientists capture anti-matter atoms
Study reveals Icelandic eruption build-up
Astronomers spot galactic intruder
Open-mouthed laughter appreciated most
Financial crisis causes dip in CO2 levels
Puberty genes linked to body fat
Face shields needed for combat: study
Organically-grown vegies not more nutritious
Bloodstains could give age away
Models show pterosaurs flew long, slow
Marsupial carnivores were underestimated
Massive black hole collision revealed
Jet-lag causes long term memory loss
Sunken tanks could detect secret nukes
Dino demise supersized the mammals
Binge drinking linked to heart disease
Cassini sniffs oxygen on Saturnian moon
Image shows echoes from before big bang
Research uncovers diamond's soft side
World warmer, but trends at odds: report
Humans caused megafauna demise: expert
The world: Four degrees warmer
Blood vessels show pollution, heart disease link
Young great whites don't have the bite
Menu
Dolphin social network good for calves
Is fish-oil Alzheimer snake-oil?
Cosmic rays trace Sun's journey through space
Marsupial mole mystery solved
Scientists warn of new polio virus strain
Oldest known stone axe found in Arnhem Land
Fly-by captures first comet photos
Dead quasar's ghostly glow reignites debate
Mum and Dad tell us how to wear our genes
New images expand solar flare knowledge
Experts urge caution on Snowy cloud seeding
First little Big Bangs created at CERN
Tarantulas help map the fear factor
Neanderthal brains developed differently
Whales showing more sun damage
Bush cricket has the biggest balls of all
Giant gamma bubbles found in Milky Way
Complex life possible earlier than first thought
Happiness evades wandering minds?
Cat lapping defies gravity
Physics unravels wet dog shake
Hubble captures rare galactic view
Early wrinkles no sign of an early grave
World's forests suffer from 'leakage'