There could be potential treatment for Nipah and Hendra, two lethal viruses for which there is no known treatment or vaccine currently.

The new research which appears in today's edition of Public Library of Science Pathogens, could also lead to new treatments for measles, mumps and flu.

"These viruses are of great concern. The Hendra virus is highly fatal and is a considered a potential agent of bioterrorism. It currently poses a serious threat to livestock in Australia, where sporadic and deadly transmission to humans has occurred, with the potential for broader dissemination," says Dr. Matteo Porotto, the study's lead author and assistant professor of microbiology in pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College.

"And the Nipah virus, which causes fatal encephalitis in up to 70 percent of human cases, causes seasonal outbreaks in Asia with person-to-person transmission now becoming a primary mode of infection. This virus could certainly cause global outbreaks," he says.

Both these viruses are part of the genus Henipavirus, a new class of virus in the Paramyxoviridae family, which includes the measles and the human parainfluenza virus (HPIV) that causes pediatric respiratory disease. The henipaviruses are carried by fruit bats (flying foxes) and are capable of causing illness and death in domestic animals and humans.

Experts say that it is crucial to find treatments for both the viruses as it could cause asymptomatic infection in nearly 60 percent of the exposed patients.