Mega-pest worms its way into Brazil

Helicoverpa armigera_5

By Wee Tek Tay, Research Scientist, CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship

We often speak of the risks of new invasions in our increasingly interconnected world, and stress the need for a strong and reliable biosecurity system to safeguard our borders.

As global trading and markets increase, it’s essential to develop our ability to detect incursions using new and innovative surveillance techniques combined with rapid identification capabilities.  This is important because Incursions by exotic pests and diseases have the potential to seriously impact Australia’s people, agricultural industries and unique environment.

And right now, a team of Australian and international scientists are working closely with colleagues in Brazil as one of the most destructive pests known to agriculture – the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) – worms its way into Brazilian agricultural fields.

Helicoverpa armigera has long been recognised as a serious biosecurity threat to the Americas, where it has the potential to establish across the South and North American continent with far greater anticipated potential economic loss to corn and cotton than the closely related Helicoverpa zea which is endemic to the Americas.

Incredibly, despite being intercepted at US Ports of Entry a staggering 4431 times since 1985, this mega-pest had not been previously reported to take hold on the American continents.

In Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe, where cotton bollworm is considered native, the damage it causes is estimated to cost $US 2 billion each year. In the last two growing seasons, high infestations of Helicoverpa species larvae were found in different regions of Brazil, resulting in substantial economic losses of up to 10 billion Brazilian Reals ($US 4.4 billion).

A cotton bollworm larvae decimating a cob of corn

A cotton bollworm larvae decimating a cob of corn

At first it was assumed that the damage was being caused by Helicoverpa zea, because the cotton bollworm had never previously been detected within the country. However, as the scale of spread and destruction was monitored, the Brazilian scientists knew that something was different and suspected that maybe the dreaded incursion of Helicoverpa armigera had indeed begun. At this point, Brazilian scientists from the Mato Grosso Cotton Institute approached CSIRO researchers to assist in the careful identification of the species attacking their crops.

Our scientists, together with French and Indian colleagues from CIRAD and IRD in France and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research used evolutionary and population genetics to confirm that the cotton bollworm has now successfully invaded Brazil.

Along with the confirmation that the Brazilians are indeed dealing with a new incursion of a serious exotic pest, the international team led by scientists from the CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship and Matto Grosso Cotton Institute is providing further vital data that will assist Brazil to manage this new menace.

The next steps for the research team are to investigate where the moth originated, where they are currently distributed, its spread across the South American continent, and the incidence of resistance to key pesticides. This information, coupled with CSIRO’s extensive expertise in insecticide resistance management will assist Brazil to develop effective strategies to manage this mega-pest.

You can read the full research paper at PLOS ONE.


For media enquiries contact Emma Pyers: +61 3 5227 5123, emma.pyers@csiro.au


Putting a stop to the rot

Queensland Fruit Fly

The Queensland Fruit Fly

Flies aren’t only a nuisance for beach goers, some species can cause havoc for Australia’s agricultural industries and threaten the production and export opportunities of our fresh fruit and vegetable produce.

Queensland Fruit Fly (Q-fly) is one of these species. It’s the highest priority pest for a broad range of horticultural industries and can inflict significant costs on producers through management costs, lost production and reduced export opportunities, and on government and industries through eradication campaigns in areas where fruit fly does not regularly occur. These costs all eventually flow through to consumers and taxpayers.

An outbreak of Q-fly in a major fruit or vegetable production area, such as the Riverland in South Australia, has the potential to impact Australia’s export and domestic horticulture markets.

CSIRO’s Biosecurity Flagship together with Horticulture Australia Ltd, Plant & Food Research Australia and the Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia are joining forces to find a solution to this Q-fly problem.

Today marks the beginning of this partnership with the South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announcing the establishment of a $3 million facility to breed male-only sterile Q-flies for use in Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) programs.

SIT is a scientifically proven method for suppressing or eradicating fruit fly populations and managing their potential impacts in horticulture production areas.

The $3 million State investment is in addition to a collaborative $15 million research and development consortium which will focus on new technologies to produce the male-only sterile Q-flies, and then the most effective release strategies and monitoring technologies needed to underpin effective area-wide control of Q-fly.

Boy biting into peach with blue sky in the background

Image: iStock

SIT approaches have already been used with great success around the world and in South Australia to combat Mediterranean fruit fly. However, the development of male-only sterile Q-fly will be a world first and will significantly enhance the cost effectiveness of SIT.

SIT is environmentally friendly and can be used in orchards, urban and environmentally sensitive areas, where application of conventional chemical treatments isn’t possible or is intrusive.


For media enquiries contact Emma Pyers: +61 3 5227 5123, emma.pyers@csiro.au


Defending ag from disease

Photo of the exterior of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory

The Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, Victoria

On-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, diagnostic scientists at CSIRO are ready to respond should an emergency disease outbreak occur.

They could test 10,000 samples per day in an emergency, but as standard delivery, CSIRO scientists at Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria, test more than 45,000 samples for 55 terrestrial and 40 aquatic animal diseases every year.

Luckily, Australia is relatively free of many animal and human diseases found in other parts of the world, such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) and Nipah virus.

However, new infectious diseases, such as new strains of avian influenza, pose a constant threat to the health and wellbeing of animals and humans and pose a risk to Australia’s environment, industries and trade.

According to AAHL’s director Dr Kurt Zuelke, researchers are focused on reducing the threats of exotic and emerging animal diseases and, for example, are on standby with over 650 different tests covering a diverse range of animal species. “AAHL researches diseases of national importance found in livestock, aquaculture animals and wildlife, including those that can pass from animals to people,” Dr Zuelke said. “Our scientists are a front-line defence who help protect the country’s billion dollar livestock and aquaculture industries from disease threats on a daily basis.”

They play this defence role through performing diagnoses, establishing surveillance to monitor movements and emergences and if required, responding to animal disease emergencies. Better understanding diseases to develop diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatments is also crucial and CSIRO AAHL scientists lead the world on bat and insect-borne disease research. This is important for animal and human health as bats and insects are natural reserviours of a range of viruses and cause many of the world’s infectious diseases in both animals and humans.

Malaria and dengue, for example, are harmless to mosquitoes; blue tongue virus is harmless to midges; and Hendra, Nipah, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) viruses are harmless to bats – but all can be lethal to humans. AAHL also helps to train veterinarians in other countries to reduce the disease risks to Australia and is an official collaborating centre for capacity building in Southeast Asia. Recently, teams have visited Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to train local veterinarians in disease diagnosis and testing techniques in their efforts to control and eradicate diseases such as FMD, classical swine fever and avian influenza. Importantly, this international work means Australia is more prepared with better threat assessments, surveillance and management options for many foreign diseases.


This article originally appeared in our 16 May Rural Press insert (pdf).

You can see what else we’ve been up to in our Rural Press Inserts Archive.


Nanoscale food structures captured on video

By Andrew Leis, microscopist, CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory

If you’re watching our little video, you’re among the first to see this very common, naturally occurring, nano-sized structure.

This is a 3D transmission electron tomogram of a single assembly of milk proteins, called a casein micelle.

In our last blog on food structures, we talked about food at the micro scale. A micrometre is one millionth of a metre. This post looks deeper into food and talks about food structures at the nano scale – that’s billionths of a metre! This micelle is around 160 nanometres in diameter. Many viruses are a similar size.

Why is this video important, you ask? It shows us the structure the micelle arranges itself into, and we can see that it forms a cross-linked, interconnected network. Knowing this will help us do things like better understand how the network holds and releases water molecules. This, along with understanding the size variation of micelles, can hopefully help with processing efficiency for manufacturers (like using less energy and water and reducing waste) and product quality of everyday dairy foods like yoghurt, cheese and milk powder.

Tomography technology

Tomography is a type of microscopy and it works like a hospital CT scan, except it’s with electrons instead of x-rays. A powerful electron microscope takes a lot of pictures as it moves around the sample and then it is turned into a 3D movie. The black and white at the start of the movie is just the image building.

But milk’s not blue!

We know that casein micelles are a suspension type food structure. We don’t actually know the colour of a single casein micelle, so the scientist who created this image arbitrarily chose to colour it a pretty shade of blue (adding colour helps to bring out the detail). We know of course what the colour is of a population of them together – that’s how milk gets its white!

Nature’s wonder thickener

This tomography video shows a pectin system, which is a gel structure. Pectin forms a strong network giving it properties as a thickener. It’s what sets jams and marmalades and fruit like apples, citrus and plums are packed with it.

Pectin also has a health function because it’s soluble dietary fibre. One benefit of understanding this structure better is to help the manufacturing industry use naturally-derived ingredients to make our food healthier.


CSIRO is hosting the Food Structures, Digestion and Health Conference on 21 – 24 October, which will discuss the role of structure in designing foods for nutrition and wellbeing.


About the author

Andrew_LeisDr Andrew Leis is a microscopist with expertise in electron tomography and correlative microscopy. He works within the microbiologically secure Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria.


Crunchy carrots and fluffy bread – It’s all about the structure

Flickr/stephendl

Flickr/stephendl

By Li Day, Research Group Leader, CSIRO Animal, Food and Health Sciences

It’s a food’s structure that gives a carrot its crunch and a loaf of bread its fluffiness, and researchers increasingly believe that many of a food’s key properties relate to its structure.

Nature is able to assemble sophisticated structures and food is no exception, even right down to the microscopic scale. Food components such as protein, carbohydrate, fat and minor ingredients, when mixed, organise into a range of structures, and its becoming clear that many properties key to a food’s processability, nutritional and sensory qualities, and safety are related to its structure.

Plants are structured like honeycomb, called ‘cell wall’ structure. The video below clearly shows the defined cell walls in raw carrot – that’s why it’s crunchy!

A scanning laser confocal microscope video in 3D showing the defined cell wall structure of raw carrot (Video: Sofia Oeseth)

Most foods have a ‘fluffy’ foam structure that forms when air bubbles are incorporated into a liquid, like bread, ice cream and meringue. The microscopic image below shows dough with air bubbles (black), gluten (yellow), starch granules (green) and protein (red).

Dough under the microscope (Click for full size image)

Dough’s foam structure is full of air (Click for full size image)

Then there are suspensions, which are a bit like oceans, with a sea of solid particles (the ingredients) suspended within a major component that is a liquid (quite often water).  Think tomato paste, fruit juices and some sauces and soups.

Cooked pumpkin in water under the microscope (Click for full size image)

Cooked pumpkin cells suspended in water (Click for full size image)

The next microscopic image shows a suspension in 3D of cooked pumpkin in water. Notice how round the pumpkin cells are – that’s why pumpkin soup feels so smooth and creamy when we’re eating it.

Colloids, which have microscopic particles dispersed through another substance, are another type of structure. Milk is an emulsified colloid of liquid butterfat dispersed in a water-based solution. The third microscopic image is of milk, and the red dots are drops of fat dispersed throughout the liquid whey (black).

Microscopic image of breast milk

Milk has a colloid structure (Click for full size image)

There are other structure types as well – solutions, emulsions and gels, which all behave differently to each other.

The structure of a food affects the way we chew it, how it breaks down in our mouths and our perception of its texture and flavour.  And because each structure also breaks down differently in our digestive system, the release and bioavailability of small molecules such as minerals, vitamins and polyphenols is also different.

Because of all these factors, food structures are increasingly being recognised as important in technology innovation for the development of healthier foods.

And as there is increasing awareness that structure has a significant effect on the bio-availability of nutrients, the focus of developing nutritional guidelines is shifting away from the traditional approach of simply assessing the nutrient composition of foods.


CSIRO is hosting the Food Structures, Digestion and Health Conference on 21 – 24 October, which will discuss the role of structure in designing foods for nutrition and wellbeing.


The turbulent times ahead for airborne pests

Boy on beach playing with sand

Image: Shutterstock

By Emma Pyers

Picture this – it’s a windy day in Northern Australia; in fact it’s a northerly wind. What are your initial thoughts?  Maybe heading to the beach with the family, hosting a BBQ or spending time outside with your canine friend?  But did you think about the risks these winds pose to our country’s biosecurity status?

If not, that’s OK because that’s what our scientists are here for – to help find solutions to protecting our environment and people from nasty pest and disease threats.

Currently the biggest biosecurity threat to Australia comes from the import of animals, plants, seeds and food that carry pests or pathogens.

So it makes sense that most of our surveillance effort goes into detecting these potential biosecurity threats at air and marine ports, and using our quarantine system for imported animals, although this still leaves open another ‘pathway’ for these nasties to use.

It’s on the wind.

It’s not as common as the direct import pathway, but it’s more concerning as it’s out of our immediate control.

So, we’re turning to mathematics and computer modelling to develop surveillance systems that can predict when and where pests and pathogens might be blown into, and from, Australia.

Yellow hot air balloon in the sky

Been hot air ballooning? Then you’ve experienced travelling with air layers and currents. Image: Zurijeta/Shutterstock

Traditionally wind trajectories have been used to show wind direction, but transport on the wind is more complex, as the pests and pathogens are also taken vertically.  The higher they are taken, the further they can travel.

Fortunately this is an area of great significance to atmospheric physicists, as they are interested in predicting things like how pollutants are dispersed in the air by chimneys, and how radiation might disperse following a nuclear accident.

This has led them to use a combination of mathematics and computer simulation to represent transport of particles in the atmosphere. There are now a number of computer applications that can do the hard work of combining the climate and weather data with the maths and physics of wind dispersion.

Infographic including maps detailing the dispersal of culicoides midges blowing into northern Australia

However, pest or pathogen dispersion is different to dust or pollutant dispersions, as living organisms respond differently within the atmosphere.  They might die if it’s too hot or cold, if the wind is too turbulent, or even if they’re susceptible to ultra-violet light.  All these organism-specific parameters need to be taken into account on top of standard dispersion modelling approaches to establish if there is a biosecurity risk or not.

It’s a challenge to bring these important elements together and make optimal decisions about when and where to do surveillance for wind-borne threats, even allowing for a high performance computer to analyse the data.

We’re working to solve this problem for all the relevant biosecurity domains interested in wind-borne spread, for example plant, animal and human health.

We are in the process of building a web-based tool that will link to the Bureau of Meteorology’s high-performance computing.  This new application is called the Tool for Assessing Pest or Pathogen Airborne Spread, also known as TAPPAS (sorry, it’s not Spanish cuisine). 

We expect TAPPAS to be ready for government, industry and research agencies interested in predicting and responding to airborne biosecurity threats for a ‘user acceptance testing” workshop in around 12-18 months time.

Our very own Peter Durr is presenting a talk on TAPPAS at the Biosecurity and Bioinvasion workshop tomorrow at CSIRO Discovery in Canberra.  CSIRO is co-hosting this event, which is part of the International Year of the Mathematics of Planet Earth, with AMSI, ANU and DAFF.


Emerging tech creating a safer food chain

iStock_000021161362XLarge

By Mala Gamage and Kai Knoerzer

In recent years a number of emerging or new food processing technologies have been investigated, developed and to some extent implemented, with the aim of improving or replacing conventional processing technologies.

By reducing pathogens and invasive species from food products, these technologies have great potential for the treatment of products exported interstate or overseas, opening the doors for wider export markets.

Because they take advantage of different applications and gentler processing methods, they also often result in processed food with a ‘fresh-like’ quality.

And while they all use vastly different techniques, they’re all pretty impressive.

Photo of sesame seeds being subjected to cool plasma

Are these sesame seeds cooler now after a dose of plasma?

Cool plasma

Cool plasma isn’t only cool in temperature, it’s cool science.

Plasma is also known as the fourth state of matter (as well as solid, liquid and gas) and exists when the internal energy of a gas is increased to a state where the gas molecules become ionised.  This plasma phase contains a number of reactive species, such as ions, free radicals and also UV radiation, which are all effective in killing bacteria, fungal spores and insects, and can be used to inactivate pests on the product surface.

Photo of a Pilot-scale continuous, pentagonal Microwave tunnel

A continuous pentagonal microwave tunnel (including convection heating facilities) at our Food Manufacturing pilot plant in Werribee, Victoria.

Microwave Processing

Large scale microwaves are actually very similar to the microwave ovens most of us have at home, but usually have a higher power capacity, and conveying systems to transport products through a microwave tunnel, where they are heated with an electromagnetic field.

Microwave processing has recently been used to disinfest (inactivate insect pests) fresh food such as apples, capsicums, zucchinis and avocados, while maintaining the quality and freshness of the product.

The microwave technology also has great potential for the disinfestation of grains.

The effect of high pressure on bugs

The effect of high pressure on bugs

High Pressure Processing

Imagine 200 elephants, each weighing three tons, standing on a piston the size of a CD. That’s greater pressure than at the deepest point of the ocean, and is the amount of pressure that products face during High Pressure Processing (HPP).

The products are packed into tight vessels and subjected to pressures up to 600 MPa, or 6000 bars.

And while you might think that would crush the products, they actually only compress by about 20 per cent, although that’s enough to kill any bacteria and insects present.

And by the end of the process, the product usually finishes at the same size it started.

Photo of a collapsing cavitation bubble

A collapsing cavitation bubble

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is nothing but sound, but at a frequency so high that it can’t be heard by people.

It’s generated by vibrating plates (at 20,000 vibrations per second or higher) which leads to the formation of water vapour bubbles, called cavitation bubbles.

Once they exceed a certain size the bubbles violently collapse, creating very high pressures, temperatures and streaming. These harsh conditions can be used to get rid of pests from product surfaces, as well as cracks and crevices.

A schematic representation of electrons activating on the surface of pecan nuts. Or...pecan nuts covered with a lot of e-'s

A schematic representation of electrons activating on the surface of pecan nuts. Or…pecan nuts covered with a lot of ‘e-’s

Low Energy Electron Beams

Electron beams inactivate bacteria, spores, fungi and insects through ionisation of the molecules in the pest.

The technology is actually very similar to the old, bulky tube TVs, where electrons are released from a hot electrode and accelerated and guided by magnetic fields onto the TV screen. Instead of the TV screen, the electron beam is guided onto the surface of a product.

Similar to cool plasma, it’s mainly effective on product surfaces, but can also penetrate to depths up to 1mm.

The technology is gaining traction in Germany for the organic treatment of grain seeds, where it completely inactivates pests without negatively affecting germination of the seeds.


About the Authors

Photo of Mala GamageDr Mala Gamage, Research Project Leader, CSIRO Animal, Food and Health Sciences

Mala has initiated research on the identification of innovative technological solutions for insect disinfestation in horticultural commodities, and evaluated the feasibility of using ultrasound, high pressure and microwave for the disinfestation of fruit flies.


Kai KnoerzerDr Kai Knoerzer, Research Project Leader, CSIRO Animal, Food and Health Sciences

Kai is working to enhance the nutritional value, convenience and quality attributes (such as fresh taste, colour etc) of processed foods through innovative food processing technologies, including high pressure, pulsed electric fields, microwave, ultrasound, and cool plasma processing.


Preventing a pathway for pathogens

Part of the Biosecurity Series

By guest blogger Professor Peter Doherty

Photo of the tail of three planes

Image: caribb/Flickr

It’s no big secret that we’re citizens of an increasingly globalized planet where ideas, information, goods and services get around very fast. One of the downsides of this brave new world is that the same is true for pests and pathogens.

The security services, customs officers and quarantine regulations/officials protect Australia from such invasions as much as possible, although given the volume of trade and human movement, stopping bad things at the borders can only be part of any effective strategy.

There’s also a need for continual environmental monitoring to make sure that nothing dangerous slips through which could compromise Australia’s agricultural industries, wildlife and natural environments.

When it comes to biodefence against invading viruses, bacteria, insects, plants, marine parasites (on the hulls of ships) and so forth, we have layers of operation that function both at the Federal and State level.

This is, of course, where the wonderful high security CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) comes into its own, providing the essential diagnostic tools and facilities for safe studies of deadly viruses in animals that are unique to the South-east Asian region.

Photo of the exterior of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory

The Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, Victoria

Apart from its service to the veterinary world, AAHL has also pioneered studies of bat-borne viruses like Hendra and Nipah (active to the North-West of Australia) that can transmit to people from infected horses and pigs respectively. These are classic cases of the “One Health” view CSIRO takes that stresses the intimate interplay between animal disease and human disease. Apart from the Henipaviruses, AAHL also has the facilities that allow CSIRO researchers to study the avian influenza A viruses, that are a looming threat to both domestic poultry and people.

An artificially coloured electron micrograph of the new-SARS like virus – now known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – which has caused an ongoing outbreak of respiratory disease and has spread from the Middle East to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Tunisia.

An artificially coloured electron micrograph of the new-SARS like virus – now known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – which has caused an ongoing outbreak of respiratory disease and has spread from the Middle East to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Tunisia. (click for full size image)

The new CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship pulls together research capability from across CSIRO together with a broad range of collaborating centres and groups. Sharing information is vital for such activities.  Clearly, Australia cannot afford to have “silos” and artificial barriers that in any sense compromise our biological security. Of ongoing concern are the hi-path variants of the avian influenza H5N1 viruses that continue to circulate in wild and domestic birds (and occasionally infect and kill people) in the countries to the north-west of Australia. While we’ve avoided that particular threat so far, the situation requires constant monitoring.

Another threat is the recently emerged H7N9 avian influenza virus and MERS, a novel coronavirus in the Middle East.

I’ve said nothing about plant, insect and fish pathogens, but there are many diseases of key species, such as bees, trout and salmon that we have so far managed to keep at bay.

The new CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship is a great step in the right direction, and we need to continue doing all that we possibly can to ensure the long-term health and wellbeing of all the life forms that inhabit our extraordinary and unique country.

Join the Conversation: #bflaunch


About the Author

Photo of Peter Doherty

Peter Doherty trained initially as a veterinarian and shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discoveries concerning our immune defence against viruses. He published the non-fiction book “Sentinel Chickens: What Birds Tell Us About our Health and our World” in 2012, and his new book “Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know” will be available in Australia from October.

Follow Peter on twitter: @ProfPCDoherty


Controlling ‘those pesky wabbits’ on land and in water

Part of the Biosecurity Series

By Michelle Beltrame, Ken McColl and Tanja Strive

‘Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, we’re wesearching viruses’.

If Elmer Fudd is the arch-enemy of Bugs Bunny, then it’s safe to say that we’re not only the arch-enemy of the European rabbit, but the fish known as the ‘rabbit of the waterways’ – the European carp.

We’re arming ourselves with viruses with the aim of keeping these two invasive species in check and to help protect Australia’s economy and environment. This strategy is called biological control (‘biocontrol’ for short) – using disease to tackle invasive pests.

The battle of the rabbit

Black and white photo of rabbits clustering around a small waterhole

This photo was taken under controlled conditions during myxoma virus trials on Wardang Island off South Australia in 1938 (click for full size image). Photo: M W Mules/CSIRO.

The European rabbit is a serious threat to agriculture and biodiversity in Australia. Myxoma virus, released in 1950 and Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD), released in 1996, have proven the only effective means to significantly reduce rabbit numbers. The benefits to the agricultural industries of these two biocontrol viruses are estimated at $70 billion.

The European rabbit was brought to Australia onboard the First Fleet in 1788, but only became a major pest in 1859 when 24 wild rabbits were released by a wealthy Victorian grazier keen on the sport of hunting, and, …well… they bred like wild rabbits! Soon millions of rabbits were competing with Australia’s livestock for feed and were damaging the environment and threatening our native animals.

Our predecessor, CSIR, conducted initial trials of myxomatosis that ultimately resulted in the release of the virus in 1950. It was the world’s first successful biocontrol program of a mammalian pest, taming a scourge that had threatened Australian agriculture and environment.

Lionel Bull, Chief of the CSIR Division of Animal Health and Nutition, releasing the first infected rabbits as part of the myxoma virus trial. (click for full size image)

Lionel Bull, Chief of the CSIR Division of Animal Health and Nutition, releasing the first infected rabbits as part of the myxoma virus trial. (click for full size image)

The initial release of myxoma virus led to a dramatic reduction of Australia’s rabbit population – killing 99.8 per cent of rabbits that caught the infection in some areas. Because the virus is spread by mosquitoes, it had its greatest impact in the highest rainfall areas but didn’t work as well in arid zones where mosquitoes can’t survive.

By the late 1950s, resistance to the myxoma virus was starting to build up in Australia’s rabbits. The virus became less effective and rabbit numbers increased, but not to pre-1950 levels.

RDC was first discovered in China in 1984 and soon after in other countries in Asia, Europe and in Mexico. The viral disease affects only European rabbits, and its discovery offshore alerted scientists to a potential new biocontrol for wild rabbits in Australia.

The introduction of calicivirus in Australia in 1996 again reduced rabbit numbers drastically, but it had greater impact in the arid zones and least impact in the higher rainfall areas. A few years ago we discovered that Australian rabbits in the higher rainfall areas actually carry a native calicivirus that may provide some immunity to the disease. This benign form of the virus is very similar, so we suspect it’s acting as an imperfect natural vaccine against the more virulent strain.

Calicivirus and myxomatosis are still having an impact, but over the years their effectiveness has declined. As a result, we’re currently researching different caliciviruses in Australian wild rabbits, and their interactions with RCD to help determine potential future implementations for rabbit biocontrol.

Curbing our carp numbers

Photo of carp jumping out of water

A European Carp. Image: Dirk-Jan Kraan/Flickr

Carp is a pest associated with the poor health of our rivers and wetlands. The fish was first introduced to Australia more than 100 years ago and is now rampant in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Image: sophietica/Flickr.

Koi Carp. Image: sophietica/Flickr.

We’re currently investigating a disease called cyprinid herpesvirus-3, also known as koi herpesvirus (or KHV), as a potential new biocontrol agent to help eradicate carp from Australia. The virus first appeared in Israel in 1998, and spread rapidly throughout much of the world, although not to Australia or New Zealand. It causes high death rates in common carp and in the ornamental variety of carp known as koi carp. No other species of fish, including goldfish, are known to be affected by it.

We’re conducting our research within the world’s most sophisticated high containment facility within the CSIRO-Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), where we’re undertaking rigorous tests to determine the virus’ suitability for controlling carp.

We’ve identified that CyHV-3 does kill Australian carp, and it kills them quickly, and current research has shown that the virus doesn’t affect native Australian or any other introduced species of fish.

Over the next few years we’ll continue to test the susceptibility of other fish species to CyHV-3 and address questions regarding the safety of possible widespread distribution of the virus, both for humans and for other animal species

Join the Conversation: #bflaunch


About the Authors

Photo of Ken MccollDr Ken McColl, Research Scientist at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong.

Ken is a veterinary virologist and pathologist specialising in the research and diagnosis of diseases of aquatic animals. For the past few years, Dr McColl’s major interest has centred on the possible use of koi herpesvirus (KHV) as a biological control agent for carp in Australia.


Photo of Tanja StriveDr Tanja Strive, Research Team Leader, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences.

Tanja is a molecular virologist, and her current research focuses on various aspects of the biological control of vertebrate pest species, in particular rabbits. Key projects investigate: a) the interactions of different co-occurring rabbit pathogens in the field and the implications for rabbit control, b) the molecular virulence mechanisms of rabbit calicivirus, c) the selection of suitable virus strains for successive and ongoing field releases, and d) The evolution of rabbit caliciviruses as a model system for emerging diseases.


Battling pests by the numbers

Biosecurity Series

By Simon Barry

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

Effective biosecurity protects Australia’s environment and industries, but managing risk is an uncertain business. That’s why we need statistics.

Australia’s physical isolation has fostered the development of an amazing diversity of unique plants and animals, and has protected us from many serious pests and diseases that circulate around the world.

But we’re also a nation of traders — our prosperity is built on the import and export of goods and services.

With trade, however, can come exotic pests and diseases that have significant impacts on agriculture, the environment and economy.

In Australia’s history, a number of iconic examples are etched in the national psyche.

Rabbits were introduced into Australia several times, beginning with the First Fleet in 1788.  Once established, they multiplied rapidly reaching plague proportions last century.  They, in combination with introduced red fox and feral cat populations they support, are suspected of being the main cause of species loss in Australia.

The cactus prickly pear (Opuntia sp.) was introduced to Australia to start a cochineal dye industry.  It spread quickly and at its height infested 24 million hectares of farmland with severe impacts on our agriculture.

A prickly pear site before treatment with Cactoblastis cactorum (click for a comparison of before and after)

A prickly pear site before treatment with Cactoblastis cactorum (View a comparison of before and after)

While the community narrative is often framed around fear of invasion and potentially catastrophic consequences, the policy challenges are more complex and diffuse.

Decision makers need to assess risks of importation of different goods and materials against their possible benefits.  They need to design surveillance systems to manage unacceptable risks; to certify that our exports are pest free; to predict their spread and impact when incursions of pests occur.

All of this is done against a backdrop of uncertainty.

Which species will successfully establish can be difficult to predict – impacts of exotic pests in agricultural systems may be predictable in some circumstances, but their environmental impacts are more uncertain.  The linkage between biosecurity, trade and market access means that stakeholders may have a vested interest in the process. And the data required to predict accurately how successfully pest species establish here are limited or in most cases thankfully non-existent, so secondary sources, such as observations in other countries need to be used.

This is where statistics helps inform our decisions.

Statistics deals naturally with uncertainty and explicitly considers one of the most fundamental scientific questions: What can we logically infer about the world based on limited data?

It can support the development of established methodologies, such as assessing biological control agents, but it also opens up the possibility of using other existing and new data streams such as citizen-science collected data and genomics.

When these are combined with new algorithms and high performance computing, a range of exciting new opportunities arise that mean we’re better placed to tackle these issues than ever before.

For example, we are using these new computational informatics approaches to analyse whether or not red foxes have been eradicated in Tasmania.

Photo of red fox

European red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Image: Liz Poon/CSIRO

Hard data is limited to a handful of fox carcasses discovered by members of the public, some footprints, a skull, DNA extracted from fox scats (poo) and blood found at the site of a chook pen raid from an unsighted predator.

As of 2010, the distribution of fox DNA-positive scats suggested a widespread fox population.

We’ve analysed the fox sighting data using a new statistical method known as approximate Bayesian computation, which uses computers to simulate millions of different plausible scenarios for the introduction and growth of the fox population.

Our analysis of the data up until 2013 provides different conclusions — that the introduced fox population is most likely extinct, or small and probably demographically weak.

Rather than worry us, the conflict between this result and the analysis based on scats is a healthy one and will drive research efforts to reconcile these differences.

We’re also using statistic to monitor the risk of pests and diseases which threaten Australia’s honeybee industry and many horticultural industries that rely on bees for pollination.

Australia is one of the only countries free of the mite Varroa destructor.  Varroa has had a huge impact on global beekeeping as bee populations overseas have been decimated. Thankfully, it has yet to reach Australia and here is a need for early detection so that eradication could begin.

A European honey bee prepupa with varroa mites

A European honey bee prepupa with varroa mites

We are using shipping data from the Lloyds registry and interception data on exotic bees and bee pests from Australian quarantine officers to resolve the relative risk of different overseas locations and the reduction of this risk due to journey duration.

Effective biosecurity will continue to be important in maintaining the efficiency of Australian agricultural industries and to protect the environment.

These two examples demonstrate how mathematical and statistical sciences play a key role and Australia is well placed to innovate in this area.

Join the Conversation: #bflaunch

We’re hosting  A Planet at Risk: Bioinvasion and Biosecurity workshop in Canberra in September. Visit the website for more details.


About the Author

Photo of Simon BarryDr Simon Barry is Program Leader of Environmental Informatics, CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship.

Simon uses his expertise in modelling and monitoring methodologies to lead research projects with the aim of helping environmental resource managers and stakeholders understand what resources we have, their quality and how to manage them for sustainability.


Human ‘spillover hosts’ sounds like the plot for a Sci-Fi movie

Part of the Biosecurity Series

By John Lowenthal and Andrew Bean

Zoonoses are diseases that have the ability to spread from animals to people, and they include some very well known diseases such as tuberculosis, flu and rabies, as well as some less familiar newcomers such as the Nipah and Melaka viruses.

Electron micrograph image of H7N9 Avian Influenza Virus

Mug shot of a one of the world’s new deadly viruses, A(H7N9).The four blobs in this electron micrograph are the virus.

In recent times zoonoses have accounted for more than 70 per cent of all emerging diseases, including H7N9 and H5N1 avian influenza, SARS, and MERS. What’s interesting is that a great deal of these zoonotic viruses that now pose a problem for humans appear to originate in either bats or poultry.

This highlights our need to understand not just what is happening in the human, but also what is happening in the animal.  Wild animals such as bats and migratory water birds are the natural ‘reservoir’ hosts for many zoonotic infections and little is known about how they carry these viruses without showing signs of disease.

Other animals, including horses, pigs, chickens and even people are ‘spillover’ hosts, meaning they are highly susceptible to these viruses, and infection is usually deadly.

The recent growth and geographic expansion of human populations and the advance of agriculture into wildlife habitats has meant that now, more than ever, there is a greater risk of emerging infectious diseases being transmitted to people from wild and domesticated animals.

In addition, the impact of climate change has resulted in disturbances in eco-systems and a re-distribution of disease hosts and carriers.  Increased global travel means a greater likelihood that new infectious agents will rapidly spread amongst the human population.Infographic of recently emerged infectious diseases

The World Health Organization has warned that the source of the next human pandemic is likely to be zoonotic, and that wildlife is a prime culprit. While the current list of known emerging infectious diseases is a major concern, it is the unknown virus lurking out there, with a potential for efficient human to human transmission that may pose the biggest pandemic threat.

A rapidly spreading lethal airborne zoonotic virus would, of course, be a major concern. You may remember the 2011 movie Contagion, which showed a fast-moving epidemic and the struggle to find a cure and control the panic. The ABC’s Catalyst story Virus Hunters also demonstrates the threat of quickly spreading diseases, and looks at the research our scientists do in the high containment facilities at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

If we want to fight these emerging threats and come out on top, we need to take a different approach to what we have done in the past and integrate medical, veterinary, ecological and environmental research.

This is what we refer to as the One Health approach – a combined approach to animal, human and environmental health, and the idea that we can all benefit from working together to value and solve the health problems of the world and reduce the risk of the next pandemic.

We believe it’s important to study and compare the disease in both the natural and spillover hosts. For example, understanding the differences between the immune systems of domesticated and wild animal hosts and comparing them to people is crucial for identifying the underlying disease mechanisms involved in zoonotic infections, and for developing new strategies for disrupting their transmission to humans.

This has important implications for predicting, preventing and controlling spillover events, and for the development of new therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics.

Photo of the exterior of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory

The Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, Victoria

Improving knowledge, prevention and treatment of zoonoses is the focus of the One Health research that we’re undertaking with our national and international partners, and within our unique high containment facility at AAHL– the world’s most sophisticated high containment facility. Focusing our research efforts in this area will assist in facilitating the development and application of effective and sustainable community health strategies. There is a growing view that a One Health approach will be critically important for our preparedness for the next zoonotic pandemic.

Join the Conversation: #bflaunch


About the Authors

 Photo of John LowenthalJohn Lowenthal is Theme Leader for A One-Health approach to Emerging Infectious Diseases, CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship

John’s research is in the area of veterinary health and immunology, including studying the innate immune responses to viral diseases, assessing the ability of immune modulators such as cytokines to enhance resistance to disease and improve vaccine efficacy, using RNA interference to modulate disease-resistance, development of novel therapeutics for zoonotic viruses (H5N1 flu, Hendra virus) and the development of disease-resistant animals.


Photo of Andrew Bean

Andrew Bean is Stream Leader for Animal Biosecurity, CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship.

Andrew is an immunologist working to improve animal and human health with a ‘One Health’ approach. He joined CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory in 1998 and the emphasis of his work is now on the innate immune response and the therapeutic and immuno-enhancing qualities of cytokines with the potential to improve health. His current research areas include avian influenza, Hendra virus, immune molecules and receptors, developing and assessing antiviral therapy, vaccines and adjuvants and therapeutics.


Our role protecting Aussies from the scary stuff

Part of the Biosecurity Series

By Gary Fitt, Director of CSIRO’s Biosecurity Flagship

When our biosecurity scientists introduce themselves to people outside the organisation and say their job is to help to protect Australia from nasty pests and diseases, they’re normally met with a puzzled expression. Soon the puzzlement turns to awe, and is followed by questions like ‘You mean you get to wear those big suits like Dustin Hoffman in the Hollywood thriller Outbreak?’

While some of our scientists work in high containment laboratories, kitted out in special protective ‘space suits’ to research deadly diseases, our work in biosecurity is much broader.

Scientists in orange high containment suits inside lab

Our scientists working in the high containment area at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong

Biosecurity threats extend beyond infectious diseases to include weeds, invasive animals and insects. These all have the potential to devastate our crops, livestock and farming profits, our environment and even human health.

Historically, Australia’s strong quarantine measures and geographic isolation have protected us from some of the most serious impacts posed by exotic pests and diseases circulating around the world, but the movement of plants, animals and people across the globe and a changing climate are placing pressure on Australia’s future ability to protect itself from exotic pest and disease threats.

To address these challenges, we’ve reorganised our biosecurity related research activities into our new Biosecurity Flagship (you can find the full details in the brochure) to bring scale and connectivity to help Australia prepare for and prevent the spread and impacts of pests and diseases.

What’s a Flagship you ask? In a nut-shell it’s a large-scale research program which uses world-class science to deliver powerful solutions that tackle Australia’s major challenges and opportunities. This new flagship focuses our research across animal, plant and environmental science to more rapidly develop solutions to address Australia’s major biosecurity challenges.

Picture of man standing outside wearing a gray suit and looking at the camera

Dr Gary Fitt, Director of CSIRO’s new Biosecurity Flagship

Australians are aware of the damage that diseases, weeds, invasive animals and insects can inflict on crops, livestock, properties, farm profits and on human health. Biosecurity is all about preventing or keeping the impact of these threats and outbreaks to a minimum. Through research, we are working to reduce the risk of pests and diseases entering Australia, as well as improving the effectiveness of our mitigation and eradication responses.

We’ve traditionally tackled wildlife, animal and human diseases completely separately, but what we’re doing now through the Flagship’s integrated activities is taking a ‘One Health’ approach to understanding how these viruses spread between wild animals, livestock and people, and how to reduce the risks or be prepared for rapid response.

For instance, to deal with zoonotic diseases (those that can pass from animals to people), we’re adopting a more coordinated approach to understanding the multidimensional links between wild animals, livestock production, the environment and global public health.

CSIRO’s One Health approach has already been successful with the development of a horse vaccine against the deadly Hendra virus. Flying foxes carry the disease, although they are not affected by it, and the virus is lethal when transmitted to horses and from infected horses to humans.  By working together, we realised that there wasn’t much we could do to reduce bat populations, and vaccinating people would be too expensive and too lengthy a process. We identified the horse vaccine as the most direct and effective strategy for the protection of both people and horses, breaking the chain of virus transmission from flying foxes to horses, and then to people, and protecting the horses themselves from a devastating infection that would otherwise most likely lead to their death.

The improved coordination of biosecurity research through the Flagship will enable us to better safeguard public health, the environment and the economy into the future.  It will also greatly assist other countries as they too strive to deal with the pests and diseases that continue to spread globally and threaten general health.

Biosecurity is a system of shared responsibility across layers of government, which needs a statistically sound understanding of risk, pathways of entry, optimised surveillance and rapid diagnosis. Working with national and international research bodies, and the operational agencies responsible for delivering biosecurity, we will work across all these issues to jointly tackle biosecurity threats head on.

Next Thursday marks the official launch of the Biosecurity Flagship. To celebrate the launch, over the coming week we will feature a series of blog posts highlighting some of the Flagship’s activities.

We’ll also be featuring a special post from our guest blogger, author,  Nobel Laureate and 1997 Australian of the Year, Peter Doherty.

Join the Conversation: #bflaunch


About the Author

Photo of Gary FittDr Gary Fitt is Director CSIRO’s Biosecurity Flagship, and is focused on protecting Australia from the biosecurity threats and risks posed by serious exotic and endemic pests and diseases.


Bird flu in China – should we be afraid?

A new strain of avian influenza emerged in China recently, where it ‘spilled over’ into the human population, causing 37 deaths.

Electron micrograph image of H7N9 Avian Influenza Virus

Mug shot of a one of the world’s new deadly viruses, A(H7N9).The four blobs in this electron micrograph are the virus.

The virus, A(H7N9), has a mortality rate more than twice as high as SARS, with over 25 per cent  of the 131 infected people dying.

So what does this mean for Australia? So far, all the cases have been in China, but with thousands of people travelling the globe every day, there is a possibility that the virus could quickly jump between countries. One of the victims was a Taiwanese man who recently returned from China.

The source of the virus has proved difficult to track, as it’s considered ‘low pathogenic’ in poultry, which means that even though it’s deadly to humans, infected birds don’t get sick.

So far the suspected method of transmission is thought to be direct contact with live infected poultry, most likely at live bird markets. While these markets are uncommon in Australia, we would face a very different situation if the virus evolved into a form that was more contagious to humans, and was able to spread through direct human to human contact.

The scientific response

Chinese authorities announced the new virus on 31 March, and very quickly made samples of the virus available for international collaborators to form a global response.

Our Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) is an international reference laboratory for animal influenzas, and was one of the biosecure labs around the world to receive the live virus for testing.

In the high biosecure facilities at AAHL, our scientists collaborated with colleagues around the world  on behalf of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, to fine tune and validate a test to detect H7N9 in Asian poultry, over a backdrop of other viruses prevalent in the region.

AAHL scientist, Mai Hlaing Loh, with a test kit bound for Asia.

AAHL scientist Mai Hlaing Loh with a test kit bound for Asia.

We’ve made the test available in kit form so that qualified labs in Southeast Asia can test for the virus in their own poultry populations. We started distributing the kits in May, and the next delivery is destined for Bhutan and Nepal later this week.

The kits themselves look unremarkable – about half the size of a tissue box, yet they contain enough reagent for around 16,000 tests. With the H component and N component of the virus needing to be tested separately, each kit can test almost 8 000 birds. The test is a real-time PCR genetic analyses, and results are available within a few hours.

As well as helping our nearest neighbours, surveillance of H7N9 in poultry populations strengthens Australia’s pre-border biosecurity by helping us prepare for the movement and possible evolution of the virus, and to better manage the public health threat.

There haven’t been any reported cases of human to human transmission yet, but being prepared for a quick response will be key for saving lives in the face of any potential outbreak.

Media: Pamela Tyers. Phone: +61 3 9731 3484. Email: pamela.tyers@csiro.au


Octopus, spaceship, or virus?

By Jayden Malseed

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but we’re hoping these brightly coloured images can tell an even bigger story.

At first glance you may think the image below is part of an octopus tentacle, or maybe the underside of an alien spaceship from the 1996 movie Independence Day, or perhaps even something else entirely.

Microscopic blue and green image of a ferret's kidney infected with Hendra virus

Is it an octopus? Is it a spaceship?…nah…it’s only 200 microns wide!

It’s actually a section from a ferret’s kidney that is infected with Hendra virus,  and has been taken with a confocal microscope.

Now this isn’t just your ordinary microscope. Costing roughly $750 000, the microscope is designed to focus on fluorescent colours that have been ‘tagged’ to specific components, which then show up on a big computer screen, giving us these incredible pictures.

The green highlights are the cells that have been infected by Hendra, while the blue highlights are the cell nuclei. To create this picture an antibody is dyed fluorescent green, which then attaches to the viral proteins, effectively colouring it green.

The vital research, led by microscopist Dr Paul Monaghan, uses these images to study the cell biology of Hendra virus. The confocal microscope, which is located within the high containment facility at our Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong Victoria, helps Paul and his team better understand the virus, and to be able to answer questions such as why it attacks certain cells, and what it does when it gets to a cell.

“We’re developing a deeper understanding of the virus by using the microscope and the images, and if we can pinpoint a specific stage in the virus lifecycle and say to ourselves ‘this is the point we need to stop it’ then that would be enormous”, Paul explained.

This is a confocal image of tissue culture taken 18 hours after inoculation with Hendra virus, and is about 100nm wide

This is a confocal image of tissue culture taken 18 hours after inoculation with Hendra virus, and is about 100nm wide

The two images to the right are slightly different from the first. Where the first was a section from a kidney, these are taken from cells growing in tissue culture. We have also labeled two virus proteins: one red and one green.

They demonstrate how the Hendra virus has infected the cells, and after 14 hours has fused those cells together to form what is called a syncytium. The green/blue round circles are the nuclei – normally one in each cell – but the rest of the cell is relatively unaffected.

This is a confocal image of tissue culture taken 124hours after inoculation with Hendra virus, and is about 100nm wide

…and after 24 hours.

After 24 hours, the infection has progressed and newly made virus proteins are gathering at the edge of the cell (next to the black areas) to form new viruses. The red and green proteins are now together and can be seen as an irregular orange line at the edge of the cell.

These images allow Paul and his team to study the virus at different stages of its lifecycle, and and will be incredibly helpful for future research with Hendra virus and other related viruses that threaten the biosecurity of our animals, people and environment.

This research is part of our wider program of work on bats and the viruses they carry.


The man in the suit

By Jayden Malseed

When most people picture a suit, they probably think of a smartly dressed person in a business suit,  but when Shawn Todd ‘suits up’  for work he wears a suit that, while made in France, isn’t exactly at the high end of fashion.

Shawn (A.K.A. Strawnie) is a research technician at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria, and since 2007 he’s been studying bats and the deadly viruses they carry.

Three people wearing blue overalls standing infront of encapsulated suits that are hanging from hooks

Shawn preparing to ‘suit up’ with colleagues Bronwyn Clayton, left, and Andrea Certoma, right.

AAHL provides a unique resource for Australia and its capacity to work with deadly disease agents at the highest level of containment, physical containment level four (PC4), is arguably the best in the world.

To stay safe when working with viruses such as SARS, Hendra and Ebola, Shawn and his colleagues spend much of their day wearing an encapsulated suit in AAHL’s high containment facility.

“The suits are air tight, have their own air supply and provide a high level protection between us and any aerosol exposure to pathogens or toxic chemicals,” Shawn said.

Shawn hard at work in the highly secure PC4 lab

Shawn hard at work in the highly secure PC4 lab

The number of hours that scientists work in the suit at any one time can vary.

“I work in a suit most days and it can include a couple of visits for a few hours at a time,” Shawn said.

“However, any longer than four hours and you start to get hungry, and need to worry about things like toilet stops, as it can take a while to go through the exiting procedure. It’s best to plan ahead and go before you enter the suit room.”

Shawn testing his headset

Shawn testing his headset

And even though they’re working within a completely air tight suit, they’re not cut off from the outside world. Communication headsets allow the team to talk not only with each other, but someone across the other side of the world, although privacy is at a premium – the headsets are linked together, so everyone can listen in!

Another pitfall of wearing a suit is that there’s no way to clean the inside while you are in them, say if they get contaminated with a wayward sneeze, which Shawn laments “has happened many times – it’s not great!”

Four minutes down...only four more to go!

Four minutes down…only four more to go!

The suits take about a minute, give or take, to get in and out, and when the day’s work is done you need to ‘shower out’ for around eight minutes in a chemical shower (with the suits on) followed by three minutes in a personal shower (with the suits off).

The suit room isn’t the only place within AAHL’s high containment area where staff may need to take showers as part of maintaining the facility’s biocontainment.

According to Shawn the record for the most number of showers taken in a 24 hour period is 23, although that was some years ago.

“I haven’t got anywhere near that, my highest is five” Shawn said.

The suits cost roughly $3,500 and last between 80 and 120 uses, or roughly six months.

Although they may be a hassle to get in and out of, these suits are a necessity for Shawn and his colleagues and enable them to undertake groundbreaking research safely on biosecurity issues affecting Australia.

You can see more of Shawn and his colleagues working in the suits in Channel Ten’s documentary The Hunt For Hendra (video).


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