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J Clin Microbiol. 1992 September; 30(9): 2419–2426.
PMCID: PMC265516

Antigenic and molecular characterization of bat rabies virus in Europe.

Abstract

The predominant role of Eptesicus serotinus in the epizootic of bat rabies in Europe was further outlined by the first isolation of the rabies virus from this species in France. The distribution of the virus was studied in naturally infected E. serotinus bats at the time of death and suggested that the papillae of the tongue and the respiratory mucosa may play a role in virus production and excretion. The analysis of 501 French rabies virus isolates from various animal species by antinucleocapsid monoclonal antibodies indicated that transmission of the disease from bats to terrestrial animals is unlikely. The antigenic profile of two isolates from French bats corresponded to that of European bat lyssavirus type 1 (EBL1). Comparisons of 12 different isolates from bats with antinucleocapsid and antiglycoprotein monoclonal antibodies and by direct sequencing of the polymerase chain reaction amplification product of the N gene indicated that EBL1, EBL2, Duvenhage virus (serotype 4 of lyssavirus), and the European fox rabies virus (serotype 1) are phylogenetically distant. They formed four tight genetic clusters named genotypes. EBL1 was shown to be antigenically and genetically more closely related to Duvenhage virus than to EBL2. We propose that EBL1 and EBL2 constitute two distinct genotypes which further serologic characterization will probably classify as new serotypes. We also report a simple method for the rapid characterization of EBL based on the digestion of the polymerase chain reaction product of the N gene by three restriction endonucleases.

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