Oral Presentation Australian Society for Microbiology Annual Scientific Meeting 2018

Serological evidence for the non-human reservoirs of Ross River virus; Australia’s most common arbovirus (#51)

Eloise Stephenson 1 2 , Penny Rudd 2 3 , Lara Herrero 2
  1. Griffith University, Main Beach, QLD, Australia
  2. Institute for Glycomics, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
  3. Institute for Glycomics, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia


Arboviruses account for 17% of the estimated global burden of infectious disease1. In Australia, the most common and widespread arbovirus in humans is Ross River virus (RRV), with ~4800 cases reported each year across all states and territories2. RRV is a significant public health and economic burden. In 2001, the estimated cost of RRV infections to the community was between $2.8 and $5.7 million annually3. RRV is maintained in enzootic cycles, and comparatively few studies have focused on identifying how species contribute to spread and amplification of the virus.


Here we present on findings from serological studies testing 400 wildlife serum samples using the gold standard, plaque reduction neutralization test4. Samples were collected through veterinary clinics over a 12 month period and species tested include common urban possums, horses, flying foxes and birds. Taking a multidisciplinary approach, we combine this data with ecological assessments of potential reservoirs.


Our findings challenge the long-held dogma that marsupials are better reservoirs than placental mammals, which in turn are better reservoirs than birds. We discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of using serological data to make assumptions on the non-human reservoirs of arboviruses.


These findings are significant for the further research and management of Ross River virus. This research highlights the importance of disentangling vector-host relationship for meaningful management strategies by drawing on multidisciplinary skills including microbiology, vector and animal ecology, public health and veterinary science.


  1. Weaver SC, Barrett AD. Transmission cycles, host range, evolution and emergence of arboviral disease. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2004;2(10):789-801.
  2. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Australian Government, Department of Health. 2017. http://www9.health.gov.au/cda/source/cda-index.cfm. Accessed 12 Sep 2017
  3. Harley D, Sleigh A, Ritchie S. Ross River virus transmission, infection, and disease: a cross-disciplinary review. Clin Microbio Rev. 2001;14(4):909-32.
  4. Hobson-Peters J. Approaches for the development of rapid serological assays for surveillance and diagnosis of infections caused by zoonotic flaviviruses of the Japanese encephalitis virus serocomplex. BioMed Res Int. 2012;2012:379738.