Nipah virus - the rising epidemic: a review

Infez Med. 2019 Jun 1;27(2):117-127.


The Nipah virus was discovered twenty years ago, and there is considerable information available regarding the specificities surrounding this virus such as transmission, pathogenesis and genome. Belonging to the Henipavirus genus, this virus can cause fever, encephalitis and respiratory disorders. The first cases were reported in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998, when affected individuals presented with severe febrile encephalitis. Since then, much has been identified about this virus. These single-stranded RNA viruses gain entry into target cells via a process known as macropinocytosis. The viral genome is released into the cell cytoplasm via a cascade of processes that involves conformational changes in G and F proteins which allow for attachment of the viral membrane to the cell membrane. In addition to this, the natural reservoirs of this virus have been identified to be fruit bats from the genus Pteropus. Five of the 14 species of bats in Malaysia have been identified as carriers, and this virus affects horses, cats, dogs, pigs and humans. Various mechanisms of transmission have been proposed such as contamination of date palm saps by bat feces and saliva, nosocomial and human-to-human transmissions. Physical contact was identified as the strongest risk factor for developing an infection in the 2004 Faridpur outbreak. Geographically, the virus seems to favor the Indian sub-continent, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, Pakistan, southern China, northern Australia and the Philippines, as demonstrated by the multiple outbreaks in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2012 in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan as well as the initial outbreaks in Malaysia and Singapore. Multiple routes of the viremic spread in the human body have been identified such as the central nervous system (CNS) and respiratory system, while virus levels in the body remain low, detection in the cerebrospinal fluid is comparatively high. The virus follows an incubation period of 4 days to 2 weeks which is followed by the development of symptoms. The primary clinical signs include fever, headache, vomiting and dizziness, while the characteristic symptoms consist of segmental myoclonus, tachycardia, areflexia, hypotonia, abnormal pupillary reflexes and hypertension. The serum neutralization test (SNT) is the gold standard of diagnosis followed by ELISA if SNT cannot be carried out. On the other hand, treatment is supportive since there a lack of effective pharmacological therapy and only one equine vaccine is currently licensed for use. Prevention of outbreaks seems to be a more viable approach until specific therapeutic strategies are devised.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Cats
  • Chiroptera / virology
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / therapy
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / transmission
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / veterinary
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Dogs
  • Epidemics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Henipavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Henipavirus Infections / therapy
  • Henipavirus Infections / transmission
  • Henipavirus Infections / veterinary
  • Horses
  • Humans
  • Nipah Virus* / genetics
  • Nipah Virus* / isolation & purification
  • Pinocytosis
  • Swine
  • Symptom Assessment
  • Vaccination / methods
  • Vaccination / veterinary
  • Virus Internalization