Isolation of Nipah virus from Malaysian Island flying-foxes

Microbes Infect. 2002 Feb;4(2):145-51. doi: 10.1016/s1286-4579(01)01522-2.


In late 1998, Nipah virus emerged in peninsular Malaysia and caused fatal disease in domestic pigs and humans and substantial economic loss to the local pig industry. Surveillance of wildlife species during the outbreak showed neutralizing antibodies to Nipah virus mainly in Island flying-foxes (Pteropus hypomelanus) and Malayan flying-foxes (Pteropus vampyrus) but no virus reactive with anti-Nipah virus antibodies was isolated. We adopted a novel approach of collecting urine from these Island flying-foxes and swabs of their partially eaten fruits. Three viral isolates (two from urine and one from a partially eaten fruit swab) that caused Nipah virus-like syncytial cytopathic effect in Vero cells and stained strongly with Nipah- and Hendra-specific antibodies were isolated. Molecular sequencing and analysis of the 11,200-nucleotide fragment representing the beginning of the nucleocapsid gene to the end of the glycoprotein gene of one isolate confirmed the isolate to be Nipah virus with a sequence deviation of five to six nucleotides from Nipah virus isolated from humans. The isolation of Nipah virus from the Island flying-fox corroborates the serological evidence that it is one of the natural hosts of the virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Chiroptera / blood
  • Chiroptera / immunology
  • Chiroptera / urine
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Cytopathogenic Effect, Viral
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Fruit / virology
  • Malaysia
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / blood
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / urine
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / virology
  • Paramyxovirinae / genetics
  • Paramyxovirinae / immunology
  • Paramyxovirinae / isolation & purification*
  • Vero Cells


  • Antibodies, Viral