Japanese Encephalitis Virus: The Emergence of Genotype IV in Australia and Its Potential Endemicity

John S. Mackenzie, David T. Williams, Andrew F. van den Hurk, David W. Smith, Bart J. Currie

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A fatal case of Japanese encephalitis (JE) occurred in northern Australia in early 2021. Sequence studies showed that the virus belonged to genotype IV (GIV), a genotype previously believed to be restricted to the Indonesian archipelago. This was the first locally acquired case of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) GIV to occur outside Indonesia, and the second confirmed fatal human case caused by a GIV virus. A closely related GIV JEV strain subsequently caused a widespread outbreak in eastern Australia in 2022 that was first detected by fetal death and abnormalities in commercial piggeries. Forty-two human cases also occurred with seven fatalities. This has been the first major outbreak of JEV in mainland Australia, and geographically the largest virgin soil outbreak recorded for JEV. This outbreak provides an opportunity to discuss and document the factors involved in the virus' spread and its ecology in a novel ecological milieu in which other flaviviruses, including members of the JE serological complex, also occur. The probable vertebrate hosts and mosquito vectors are discussed with respect to virus spread and its possible endemicity in Australia, and the need to develop a One Health approach to develop improved surveillance methods to rapidly detect future outbreak activity across a large geographical area containing a sparse human population. Understanding the spread of JEV in a novel ecological environment is relevant to the possible threat that JEV may pose in the future to other receptive geographic areas, such as the west coast of the United States, southern Europe or Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2022


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