A bizarre brain-eating amoematid virus has been discovered in a Canberra hospital, prompting hospital staff to take the unusual step of testing its incubation period and whether they can detect it.
Key points:Researchers in Australia are working on a vaccine against brain eating amebae (BKA)The virus was found in an Australian hospital last monthThe virus is transmitted through saliva and can infect people up to 24 hours after being foundBrain eating amebs are the result of a group of bacteria that lives in the blood of people infected by amebos.
These bacteria can survive for weeks or months without a source of food, but once they’ve colonised a body they begin to feed on the lining of the blood vessels and cause the blood to become thicker and blood vessels to rupture.
“This is the first time we’ve seen this type of virus in Australia and we’re trying to work out how to identify it,” Professor James Fergusson, the chief infectious diseases expert at the Royal Children’s Hospital of Western Australia, told ABC Radio Canberra.
“We’re trying really hard to find out what it is, how it is spread and what it’s doing in the body.”BKA is transmitted via saliva and has the ability to infect people for up to three days, but its incubating period is a short period of time that is typically between three and four days.
“It’s very unusual, it’s something that you’d see on a show like Shark Tank, where people are trying to get the biggest possible amount of money, but not necessarily with any real sense of success,” Professor Ferguson said.
“If we can identify this virus in the same way we’re finding other kinds of ameba, we’ll have a very good idea of how to get it through to people.”
He said they were also working with a lab to try and develop a vaccine.
“In the lab, we’ve been using amebas from other parts of the world that are infected and we have seen that if we can use that to make a vaccine, we could potentially make a really good vaccine, he said.