Hot from the Australian Society for Microbiology 2012 Annual Scientific Meeting


What's in a name? West Nile Virus is in Australia
West Nile Virus (WNV), a flavivirus spread by mosquitoes, and now a serious global emerging infectious disease, is finally in Australia. In fact it has been here since 1960, but disguised as Kunjin virus! Dr Roy Hall in a fascinating presentation on 4 July clarified the taxonomy of the West Nile Viruses.
Kunjin virus was found by Ralph Doherty at Kowanyama in 1960. During the massive epidemic of equine encephalitis in horses in 2010-2011 in NSW and Victoria, a new strain of WNV was isolated. It turns out this strain WNVNSW2011 is a mutation of the endemic Kunjin virus. Two mutations dramatically increased the virulence for horses. It also prompted some serious taxonomic soul searching; so now what we knew as Kunjin virus is WNVKUN! What's in a name?

For an excellent taxonomic overview of WNVKUN see the paper by Melinda Frost in Emerging Infectious Diseases 2012;18(5):792.

For a good presentation on equine encephalitis in Australia see Gary Muscatello's at the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology.