Kunjin virus

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Kunjin virus
Virus classification Edit this classification
(unranked): Virus
Realm: Riboviria
Kingdom: Orthornavirae
Phylum: Kitrinoviricota
Class: Flasuviricetes
Order: Amarillovirales
Family: Flaviviridae
Genus: Flavivirus
Kunjin virus
Ribbon diagram of Kunjin virus
Ribbon representation of the assembly of Kunjin virus from 60 sets of Envelope and Matrix proteins

Kunjin virus (KUNV) is a zoonotic virus of the family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus. It is a subtype of West Nile virus endemic to Oceania.


The virus was first isolated from Culex annulirostris mosquitoes in Australia in 1960.[1][2] The name of Kunjin virus derives from an Aboriginal clan living on the Mitchell River close to where the virus was first isolated in Kowanyama, northern Queensland.[1][3]


Kunjin virus is a zoonotic virus of the family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus. It is an arbovirus which is transmitted by mosquitoes and is part of the Japanese encephalitis serological complex.[4] It is antigenically and genetically very similar to West Nile virus and in 1999 was reclassified as a subtype of WNV.[3][5] Its genome is positive-sense single stranded RNA made up of 10,644 nucleotides.[3][4]

Symptoms and prognosis[edit]

Infection with the virus often causes no symptoms, but it can lead to either an encephalitic disease or a non-encephalitic disease.[6] Non-encephalitic Kunjin virus disease can cause symptoms including acute febrile illness, headache, arthralgia, myalgia, fatigue and rash.[1][6] Kunjin virus encephalitis features acute febrile meningoencephalitis.[1]

Both forms of Kunjin virus disease are milder than the diseases caused by West Nile virus and Murray Valley encephalitis virus.[5][6]

Transmission and control[edit]

Kunjin virus is transmitted by mosquito vectors, especially the Culex annulirostris.[3] They pass the virus to waterbird reservoir hosts; a major example is the nankeen night heron.[3] It is also passed to horses and humans.[7] The virus has been isolated in mosquitoes in South East Asia but in humans, only in Australia.[6] It has been found all over Australia and is particularly prevalent in areas near wetlands and rivers.[8]

The control of Kunjin virus is achieved in the same ways as other mosquito-borne diseases. These include individuals using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved clothes and avoiding areas where mosquitoes are particularly prevalent.[1] Habitat control by government agencies can take the form of reducing the amount of water available for mosquitoes to breed in, and the use of insecticides.[9] There is no available vaccine against Kunjin virus.[1]

Use in medicine[edit]

In 2005, scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and the University of Queensland found that modified Kunjin virus particles injected into mice were able to deliver a gene into the immune system targeting cancer cells.[10][11] This research may lead to vaccines for cancer and HIV.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Department of Health and Ageing—Kunjin virus infection—Fact Sheet". Government of Australia. 2004-05-25. Archived from the original on 2009-10-30. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  2. ^ Krauss, H. (2003). Zoonoses. ASM Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-55581-236-2.
  3. ^ a b c d e Mackenzie, John S.; R. W. Ashford; M. W. Service (2001). Encyclopedia of arthropod-transmitted infections of man and domesticated animals. CABI. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-85199-473-4.
  4. ^ a b Hirsh, Dwight C.; Nigel James Maclachlan; Richard L. Walker (2004). Veterinary microbiology. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 354. ISBN 978-0-8138-0379-1.
  5. ^ a b Bhattacharya, Shaoni (2003-08-12). "West Nile virus's milder cousin gives vaccine hope". New Scientist. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  6. ^ a b c d Cook, Gordon C.; Alimuddin I. Zumla (2008). Manson's tropical diseases. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 736–7. ISBN 978-1-4160-4470-3.
  7. ^ Scherret, Jacqueline H.; Michael Poidinger (Jul–Aug 2001). "The Relationships between West Nile and Kunjin Viruses". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  8. ^ Adlam, Nigel (2008-03-20). "Heavy rains bring mozzie diseases". Northern Territory News. Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  9. ^ Russell, Richard C.; Stephen L. Doggett. "Murray Valley Encephalitis virus & Kunjin virus". University of Sydney—Department of Medical Entomology. Archived from the original on 2009-07-26. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  10. ^ a b "Australian virus may lead to cancer vaccine". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2005-03-31. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  11. ^ a b "New medical uses for the Kunjin virus". News-Medical.Net. 2005-04-12. Retrieved 2009-08-08.