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1.  Enzootic and Epizootic Rabies Associated with Vampire Bats, Peru 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(9):1463-1469.
During the past decade, incidence of human infection with rabies virus (RABV) spread by the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) increased considerably in South America, especially in remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, where these bats commonly feed on humans. To better understand the epizootiology of rabies associated with vampire bats, we used complete sequences of the nucleoprotein gene to infer phylogenetic relationships among 157 RABV isolates collected from humans, domestic animals, and wildlife, including bats, in Peru during 2002–2007. This analysis revealed distinct geographic structuring that indicates that RABVs spread gradually and involve different vampire bat subpopulations with different transmission cycles. Three putative new RABV lineages were found in 3 non–vampire bat species that may represent new virus reservoirs. Detection of novel RABV variants and accurate identification of reservoir hosts are critically important for the prevention and control of potential virus transmission, especially to humans.
PMCID: PMC3810916
rabies; molecular epidemiology; bats; Peru; viruses; zoonoses; vampire bats
2.  Molecular characterization of Korean rabies virus isolates 
Journal of Veterinary Science  2011;12(1):57-63.
The nucleoprotein (N) and glycoprotein (G) of 11 Korean rabies virus (RABV) isolates collected from animals diagnosed with rabies between 2008 and 2009 were subjected to molecular and phylogenetic analyses. Six isolates originated from domestic animals (cattle and dogs) and five were obtained from wild free-ranging raccoon dogs. The similarities in the nucleotide sequences of the N gene among all Korean isolates ranged from 98.1 to 99.8%, while those of the G gene ranged from 97.9 to 99.3%. Based on the nucleotide analysis of the N and G genes, the Korean RABV isolates were confirmed as genotype I of Lyssavirus and classified into four distinct subgroups with high similarity. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the Korean isolates were most closely related to the non-Korean NeiMeng1025B and 857r strains, which were isolated from rabid raccoon dogs in Eastern China and Russia, respectively. These findings suggest that the Korean RABV isolates originated from a rabid raccoon dog in Northeastern Asia. Genetic analysis of the Korean RABV isolates revealed no substitutions at several antigenic sites, indicating that the isolates circulating in Korea may be pathogenic in several hosts.
PMCID: PMC3053468  PMID: 21368564
characterization; genotype I; molecular epidemiology; rabies virus
3.  Susceptibility and Pathogenesis of Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) to Heterologous and Homologous Rabies Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(16):9008-9015.
Rabies virus (RABV) maintenance in bats is not well understood. Big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), and Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) are the most common bats species in the United States. These colonial bat species also have the most frequent contact with humans and domestic animals. However, the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) RABV is associated with the majority of human rabies virus infections in the United States and Canada. This is of interest because silver-haired bats are more solitary bats with infrequent human interaction. Our goal was to determine the likelihood of a colonial bat species becoming infected with and transmitting a heterologous RABV. To ascertain the potential of heterologous RABV infection in colonial bat species, little brown bats were inoculated with a homologous RABV or one of two heterologous RABVs. Additionally, to determine if the route of exposure influenced the disease process, bats were inoculated either intramuscularly (i.m.) or subcutaneously (s.c.) with a homologous or heterologous RABV. Our results demonstrate that intramuscular inoculation results in a more rapid progression of disease onset, whereas the incubation time in bats inoculated s.c. is significantly longer. Additionally, cross protection was not consistently achieved in bats previously inoculated with a heterologous RABV following a challenge with a homologous RABV 6 months later. Finally, bats that developed rabies following s.c. inoculation were significantly more likely to shed virus in their saliva and demonstrated increased viral dissemination. In summary, bats inoculated via the s.c. route are more likely to shed virus, thus increasing the likelihood of transmission.
PMCID: PMC3754046  PMID: 23741002
4.  High Diversity of Rabies Viruses Associated with Insectivorous Bats in Argentina: Presence of Several Independent Enzootics 
Rabies is a fatal infection of the central nervous system primarily transmitted by rabid animal bites. Rabies virus (RABV) circulates through two different epidemiological cycles: terrestrial and aerial, where dogs, foxes or skunks and bats, respectively, act as the most relevant reservoirs and/or vectors. It is widely accepted that insectivorous bats are not important vectors of RABV in Argentina despite the great diversity of bat species and the extensive Argentinean territory.
We studied the positivity rate of RABV detection in different areas of the country, and the antigenic and genetic diversity of 99 rabies virus (RABV) strains obtained from 14 species of insectivorous bats collected in Argentina between 1991 and 2008.
Based on the analysis of bats received for RABV analysis by the National Rabies system of surveillance, the positivity rate of RABV in insectivorous bats ranged from 3.1 to 5.4%, depending on the geographic location. The findings were distributed among an extensive area of the Argentinean territory. The 99 strains of insectivorous bat-related sequences were divided into six distinct lineages associated with Tadarida brasiliensis, Myotis spp, Eptesicus spp, Histiotus montanus, Lasiurus blosseviilli and Lasiurus cinereus. Comparison with RABV sequences obtained from insectivorous bats of the Americas revealed co-circulation of similar genetic variants in several countries. Finally, inter-species transmission, mostly related with Lasiurus species, was demonstrated in 11.8% of the samples.
This study demonstrates the presence of several independent enzootics of rabies in insectivorous bats of Argentina. This information is relevant to identify potential areas at risk for human and animal infection.
Author Summary
In Argentina, successful vaccination and control of terrestrial rabies in the 1980s revealed the importance of the aerial route in RABV transmission. Current distribution of cases shows a predominance of rabies by hematophagous bats in the Northern regions where rabies is a major public health concern; in contrast, in Central and Southern regions where rabies is not a major public health concern, little surveillance is performed. Based on the analysis of insectivorous bats received for RABV analysis by the National Rabies system of surveillance, the positivity rate of RABV in insectivorous bats in these regions ranged from 3.1 to 5.4%. This rate is comparable to other nations such as the United States (9–10%) where insectivorous bats are an important cause of concern for RABV surveillance systems. Antigenic and genetic analysis of a wide collection of rabies strains shows the presence of multiple endemic cycles associated with six bat insectivorous species distributed among an extensive area of the Argentinean territory and several countries of the Americas. Finally, inter-species transmission, mostly related with Lasiurus species, was demonstrated in 11.8% of the samples. Increased public education about the relationship between insectivorous bats and rabies are essential to avoid human cases and potential spread to terrestrial mammals.
PMCID: PMC3348165  PMID: 22590657
5.  Molecular epidemiology of livestock rabies viruses isolated in the northeastern Brazilian states of Paraíba and Pernambuco from 2003 - 2009 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:32.
Limited or no epidemiological information has been reported for rabies viruses (RABVs) isolated from livestock in the northeastern Brazilian states of Paraíba (PB) and Pernambuco (PE). The aim of this study was to clarify the molecular epidemiology of RABVs circulating in livestock, especially cattle, in these areas between 2003 and 2009.
Phylogenetic analysis based on 890 nt of the nucleoprotein (N) gene revealed that the 52 livestock-derived RABV isolates characterized here belonged to a single lineage. These isolates clustered with a vampire bat-related RABV lineage previously identified in other states in Brazil; within PB and PE, this lineage was divided between the previously characterized main lineage and a novel sub-lineage.
The occurrences of livestock rabies in PB and PE originated from vampire bat RABVs, and the causative RABV lineage has been circulating in this area of northeastern Brazil for at least 7 years. This distribution pattern may correlate to that of a vampire bat population isolated by geographic barriers.
PMCID: PMC3285087  PMID: 22243739
6.  Isolation and Identification of a Novel Rabies Virus Lineage in China with Natural Recombinant Nucleoprotein Gene 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e49992.
Rabies virus (RABV) causes severe neurological disease and death. As an important mechanism for generating genetic diversity in viruses, homologous recombination can lead to the emergence of novel virus strains with increased virulence and changed host tropism. However, it is still unclear whether recombination plays a role in the evolution of RABV. In this study, we isolated and sequenced four circulating RABV strains in China. Phylogenetic analyses identified a novel lineage of hybrid origin that comprises two different strains, J and CQ92. Analyses revealed that the virus 3′ untranslated region (UTR) and part of the N gene (approximate 500 nt in length) were likely derived from Chinese lineage I while the other part of the genomic sequence was homologous to Chinese lineage II. Our findings reveal that homologous recombination can occur naturally in the field and shape the genetic structure of RABV populations.
PMCID: PMC3514186  PMID: 23226506
7.  Rabies in South Indian Cows: An evidence of Sri Lankan Rabies virus Variant Infection Based on the Analysis of Partial Nucleoprotein Gene 
Rabies is a highly fatal non-suppurative encephalomyelitis, caused by the Rabies virus. Dogs are the major reservoir of rabies in India and are the source of infection to other domestic animals. In this report, laboratory investigation and molecular characterization of isolates from two cows with paralytic rabies is described. Necropsy brain samples from the two cows were tested for the presence of rabies antigen using a fluorescent antibody test and the results were confirmed using RT-PCR. Rabies virus was successfully isolated from both the brain samples in a murine neuroblastoma cell line. The phylogenetic analysis of partial nucleoprotein gene sequences of these isolates showed them to be of a variant of Rabies virus which is closely related to the Sri Lankan Rabies virus lineage as previously reported. In addition, partial nucleoprotein genes of 19 more Rabies virus isolates from southern India were sequenced and of these 11 isolates were found to be closely related to the Sri Lankan lineage. The deduced amino acid sequences of the partial nucleoprotein of the Indian isolates were 96–99% identical to the Sri Lankan isolates. This investigation re-confirms the previous speculations that the Sri Lankan variant of the virus may still be actively transmitted by animals in India.
PMCID: PMC3550735  PMID: 23637516
Rabies; India; Sri Lankan variant
8.  Molecular Characterization of Cryptically Circulating Rabies Virus from Ferret Badgers, Taiwan 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(5):790-798.
The virus has been circulating in Taiwan for about 100 years.
After the last reported cases of rabies in a human in 1959 and a nonhuman animal in 1961, Taiwan was considered free from rabies. However, during 2012–2013, an outbreak occurred among ferret badgers in Taiwan. To examine the origin of this virus strain, we sequenced 3 complete genomes and acquired multiple rabies virus (RABV) nucleoprotein and glycoprotein sequences. Phylogeographic analyses demonstrated that the RABV affecting the Taiwan ferret badgers (RABV-TWFB) is a distinct lineage within the group of lineages from Asia and that it has been differentiated from its closest lineages, China I (including isolates from Chinese ferret badgers) and the Philippines, 158–210 years ago. The most recent common ancestor of RABV-TWFB originated 91–113 years ago. Our findings indicate that RABV could be cryptically circulating in the environment. An understanding of the underlying mechanism might shed light on the complex interaction between RABV and its host.
PMCID: PMC4012806  PMID: 24751120
Rabies; Melogale moschata subaurantiaca; phylogeography; origin; Taiwan; ferret badger; viruses
9.  Rabies Virus Infection in Eptesicus fuscus Bats Born in Captivity (Naïve Bats) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64808.
The study of rabies virus infection in bats can be challenging due to quarantine requirements, husbandry concerns, genetic differences among animals, and lack of medical history. To date, all rabies virus (RABV) studies in bats have been performed in wild caught animals. Determining the RABV exposure history of a wild caught bat based on the presence or absence of viral neutralizing antibodies (VNA) may be misleading. Previous studies have demonstrated that the presence of VNA following natural or experimental inoculation is often ephemeral. With this knowledge, it is difficult to determine if a seronegative, wild caught bat has been previously exposed to RABV. The influence of prior rabies exposure in healthy, wild caught bats is unknown. To investigate the pathogenesis of RABV infection in bats born in captivity (naïve bats), naïve bats were inoculated intramuscularly with one of two Eptesicus fuscus rabies virus variants, EfV1 or EfV2. To determine the host response to a heterologous RABV, a separate group of naïve bats were inoculated with a Lasionycteris noctivagans RABV (LnV1). Six months following the first inoculation, all bats were challenged with EfV2. Our results indicate that naïve bats may have some level of innate resistance to intramuscular RABV inoculation. Additionally, naïve bats inoculated with the LnV demonstrated the lowest clinical infection rate of all groups. However, primary inoculation with EfV1 or LnV did not appear to be protective against a challenge with the more pathogenic EfV2.
PMCID: PMC3669413  PMID: 23741396
10.  Laboratory Surveillance of Rabies in Humans, Domestic Animals, and Bats in Madagascar from 2005 to 2010 
Background. Rabies virus (RABV) has circulated in Madagascar at least since the 19th century. Objectives. To assess the circulation of lyssavirus in the island from 2005 to 2010. Materials and Methods. Animal (including bats) and human samples were tested for RABV and other lyssavirus using antigen, ribonucleic acid (RNA), and antibodies detection and virus isolation. Results. Half of the 437 domestic or tame wild terrestrial mammal brains tested were found RABV antigen positive, including 54% of the 341 dogs tested. This percentage ranged from 26% to 75% across the period. Nine of the 10 suspected human cases tested were laboratory confirmed. RABV circulation was confirmed in 34 of the 38 districts sampled. No lyssavirus RNA was detected in 1983 bats specimens. Nevertheless, antibodies against Lagos bat virus were detected in the sera of 12 among 50 Eidolon dupreanum specimens sampled. Conclusion. More than a century after the introduction of the vaccine, rabies still remains endemic in Madagascar.
PMCID: PMC3170745  PMID: 21991442
11.  Ferret badger rabies origin and its revisited importance as potential source of rabies transmission in Southeast China 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:234.
The frequent occurrence of ferret badger-associated human rabies cases in southeast China highlights the lack of laboratory-based surveillance and urges revisiting the potential importance of this animal in rabies transmission. To determine if the ferret badgers actually contribute to human and dog rabies cases, and the possible origin of the ferret badger-associated rabies in the region, an active rabies survey was conducted to determine the frequency of rabies infection and seroprevalence in dogs and ferret badgers.
A retrospective survey on rabies epidemics was performed in Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces in southeast China. The brain tissues from ferret badgers and dogs were assayed by fluorescent antibody test. Rabies virus was isolated and sequenced for phylogenetic analysis. The sera from ferret badgers and dogs were titrated using rabies virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) test.
The ferret badgers presented a higher percentage of rabies seroconversion than dogs did in the endemic region, reaching a maximum of 95% in the collected samples. Nine ferret badger-associated rabies viruses were isolated, sequenced, and were phylogenetically clustered as a separate group. Nucleotide sequence revealed 99.4-99.8% homology within the ferret badger isolates, and 83-89% homology to the dog isolates in the nucleoprotein and glycoprotein genes in the same rabies endemic regions.
Our data suggest ferret badger-associated rabies has likely formed as an independent enzootic originating from dogs during the long-term rabies infestation in southeast China. The eventual role of FB rabies in public health remains unclear. However, management of ferret badger bites, rabies awareness and control in the related regions should be an immediate need.
PMCID: PMC2927599  PMID: 20691095
12.  A Novel Rabies Vaccine Based on a Recombinant Parainfluenza Virus 5 Expressing Rabies Virus Glycoprotein 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(6):2986-2993.
Untreated rabies virus (RABV) infection leads to death. Vaccine and postexposure treatment have been effective in preventing RABV infection. However, due to cost, rabies vaccination and treatment have not been widely used in developing countries. There are 55,000 human death caused by rabies annually. An efficacious and cost-effective rabies vaccine is needed. Parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5) is thought to contribute to kennel cough, and kennel cough vaccines containing live PIV5 have been used in dogs for many years. In this work, a PIV5-vectored rabies vaccine was tested in mice. A recombinant PIV5 encoding RABV glycoprotein (G) (rPIV5-RV-G) was administered to mice via intranasal (i.n.), intramuscular (i.m.), and oral inoculation. The vaccinated mice were challenged with a 50% lethal challenge dose (LD50) of RABV challenge virus standard 24 (CVS-24) intracerebrally. A single dose of 106 PFU of rPIV5-RV-G was sufficient for 100% protection when administered via the i.n. route. The mice vaccinated with a single dose of 108 PFU of rPIV5-RV-G via the i.m. route showed very robust protection (90% to 100%). Intriguingly, the mice vaccinated orally with a single dose of 108 PFU of rPIV5-RV-G showed a 50% survival rate, which is comparable to the 60% survival rate among mice inoculated with an attenuated rabies vaccine strain, recombinant LBNSE. This is first report of an orally effective rabies vaccine candidate in animals based on PIV5 as a vector. These results indicate that rPIV5-RV-G is an excellent candidate for a new generation of recombinant rabies vaccine for humans and animals and PIV5 is a potential vector for oral vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3592160  PMID: 23269806
13.  Immune Clearance of Attenuated Rabies Virus Results in Neuronal Survival with Altered Gene Expression 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(10):e1002971.
Rabies virus (RABV) is a highly neurotropic pathogen that typically leads to mortality of infected animals and humans. The precise etiology of rabies neuropathogenesis is unknown, though it is hypothesized to be due either to neuronal death or dysfunction. Analysis of human brains post-mortem reveals surprisingly little tissue damage and neuropathology considering the dramatic clinical symptomology, supporting the neuronal dysfunction model. However, whether or not neurons survive infection and clearance and, provided they do, whether they are functionally restored to their pre-infection phenotype has not been determined in vivo for RABV, or any neurotropic virus. This is due, in part, to the absence of a permanent “mark” on once-infected cells that allow their identification long after viral clearance. Our approach to study the survival and integrity of RABV-infected neurons was to infect Cre reporter mice with recombinant RABV expressing Cre-recombinase (RABV-Cre) to switch neurons constitutively expressing tdTomato (red) to expression of a Cre-inducible EGFP (green), permanently marking neurons that had been infected in vivo. We used fluorescence microscopy and quantitative real-time PCR to measure the survival of neurons after viral clearance; we found that the vast majority of RABV-infected neurons survive both infection and immunological clearance. We were able to isolate these previously infected neurons by flow cytometry and assay their gene expression profiles compared to uninfected cells. We observed transcriptional changes in these “cured” neurons, predictive of decreased neurite growth and dysregulated microtubule dynamics. This suggests that viral clearance, though allowing for survival of neurons, may not restore them to their pre-infection functionality. Our data provide a proof-of-principle foundation to re-evaluate the etiology of human central nervous system diseases of unknown etiology: viruses may trigger permanent neuronal damage that can persist or progress in the absence of sustained viral antigen.
Author Summary
Rabies is an ancient and fatal neurological disease of animals and humans, caused by infection of the central nervous system (CNS) with Rabies virus (RABV). It is estimated that nearly 55,000 human RABV fatalities occur each year, though this number is likely much higher due to unreported exposures or failure of diagnosis. No treatment has been identified to cure disease after onset of symptoms. Neurovirologists still do not know the cause of rabies' dramatic symptoms and fatality, though it is thought to be due to neuronal loss or dysfunction. Here, we use a novel approach to permanently and genetically tag infected cells so that they can be identified after the infection has been cleared. This allowed us to define neuronal survival time following infection, and to assess neuronal function through gene expression analysis. We found that RABV infection does not lead to loss of neurons, but rather induces a permanent change in gene expression that may be related to the ability of RABV to cause permanent CNS disease. Our study provides evidence that viral infection of the brain can initiate long-term changes that may have consequences for nervous system health, even after the virus has been cleared from the CNS.
PMCID: PMC3469654  PMID: 23071441
14.  Involvement of the Rabies Virus Phosphoprotein Gene in Neuroinvasiveness 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(22):12327-12338.
Rabies virus (RABV), which is transmitted via a bite wound caused by a rabid animal, infects peripheral nerves and then spreads to the central nervous system (CNS) before causing severe neurological symptoms and death in the infected individual. Despite the importance of this ability of the virus to spread from a peripheral site to the CNS (neuroinvasiveness) in the pathogenesis of rabies, little is known about the mechanism underlying the neuroinvasiveness of RABV. In this study, to obtain insights into the mechanism, we conducted comparative analysis of two fixed RABV strains, Nishigahara and the derivative strain Ni-CE, which cause lethal and asymptomatic infections, respectively, in mice after intramuscular inoculation. Examination of a series of chimeric viruses harboring the respective genes from Nishigahara in the genetic background of Ni-CE revealed that the Nishigahara phosphoprotein (P) gene plays a major role in the neuroinvasiveness by mediating infection of peripheral nerves. The results obtained from both in vivo and in vitro experiments strongly suggested that the Nishigahara P gene, but not the Ni-CE P gene, is important for stable viral replication in muscle cells. Further investigation based on the previous finding that RABV phosphoprotein counteracts the host interferon (IFN) system demonstrated that the Nishigahara P gene, but not the Ni-CE P gene, functions to suppress expression of the beta interferon (IFN-β) gene (Ifn-β) and IFN-stimulated genes in muscle cells. In conclusion, we provide the first data strongly suggesting that RABV phosphoprotein assists viral replication in muscle cells by counteracting the host IFN system and, consequently, enhances infection of peripheral nerves.
PMCID: PMC3807887  PMID: 24027304
15.  Ecology of Rabies Virus Exposure in Colonies of Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) at Natural and Man-Made Roosts in Texas 
Previous studies have investigated rabies virus (RABV) epizootiology in Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in natural cave roosts. However, little is known about geographic variation in RABV exposure, or if the use of man-made roosts by this species affects enzootic RABV infection dynamics within colonies. We sampled rabies viral neutralizing antibodies in bats at three bridge and three cave roosts at multiple time points during the reproductive season to investigate temporal and roost variation in RABV exposure. We report seropositive bats in all age and sex classes with minimal geographic variation in RABV seroprevalence among Brazilian free-tailed bat colonies in south-central Texas. While roost type was not a significant predictor of RABV seroprevalence, it was significantly associated with seasonal fluctuations, suggesting patterns of exposure that differ between roosts. Temporal patterns suggest increased RABV seroprevalence after parturition in cave colonies, potentially related to an influx of susceptible young, in contrast to more uniform seroprevalence in bridge colonies. This study highlights the importance of life history and roost ecology in understanding patterns of RABV seroprevalence in colonies of the Brazilian free-tailed bat.
PMCID: PMC2944840  PMID: 19492942
Brazilian free-tailed bat; Epizootiology; Rabies virus; Roost ecology
16.  Passive carriage of rabies virus by dendritic cells 
SpringerPlus  2013;2:419.
The rabies virus (RABV) is highly neurotropic and it uses evasive strategies to successfully evade the host immune system. Because rabies is often fatal, understanding the basic processes of the virus-host interactions, particularly in the initial events of infection, is critical for the design of new therapeutic approaches to target RABV. Here, we examined the possible role of dendritic cells (DCs) in the transmission of RABV to neural cells at peripheral site of exposure. Viral replication only occurred at a low level in the DC cell line, JAWS II, after its infection with either pathogenic RABV (CVS strain) or low-pathogenic RABV (ERA strain), and no progeny viruses were produced in the culture supernatants. However, both viral genomic RNAs were retained in the long term after infection and maintained their infectivity. The biggest difference between CVS and ERA was in their ability to induce type I interferons. Although the ERA-infected JAWS II cells exhibited cytopathic effect and were apparently killed by normal spleen cells in vitro, the CVS-infected JAWS II cells showed milder cytopathic effect and less lysis when cocultured with spleen cells. Strongly increased expression of major histocompatibility complex classes I, costimulatory molecules (CD80 and CD86), type I interferons and Toll- like receptor 3, and was observed only in the ERA-inoculated JAWS II cells and not in those inoculated with CVS. During the silencing of the cellular immune response in the DCs, the pathogenic CVS strain cryptically maintained an infectious viral genome and was capable of transmitting infectious RABV to permissive neural cells. These findings demonstrate that DCs may play a role in the passive carriage of RABV during natural rabies infections.
PMCID: PMC3765594  PMID: 24024103
Rabies virus; Dendritic cells; Immune invasion
17.  Infection with street strain rabies virus induces modulation of the microRNA profile of the mouse brain 
Virology Journal  2012;9:159.
Rabies virus (RABV) causes a fatal infection of the central nervous systems (CNS) of warm-blooded animals. Once the clinical symptoms develop, rabies is almost invariably fatal. The mechanism of RABV pathogenesis remains poorly understood. Recent studies have shown that microRNA (miRNA) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of viral infections. Our recent findings have revealed that infection with laboratory-fixed rabies virus strain can induce modulation of the microRNA profile of mouse brains. However, no previous report has evaluated the miRNA expression profile of mouse brains infected with RABV street strain.
The results of microarray analysis show that miRNA expression becomes modulated in the brains of mice infected with street RABV. Quantitative real-time PCR assay of the differentially expressed miRNAs confirmed the results of microarray assay. Functional analysis showed the differentially expressed miRNAs to be involved in many immune-related signaling pathways, such as the Jak-STAT signaling pathway, the MAPK signaling pathway, cytokine-cytokine receptor interactions, and Fc gamma R-mediated phagocytosis. The predicted expression levels of the target genes of these modulated miRNAs were found to be correlated with gene expression as measured by DNA microarray and qRT-PCR.
RABV causes significant changes in the miRNA expression profiles of infected mouse brains. Predicted target genes of the differentially expression miRNAs are associated with host immune response, which may provide important information for investigation of RABV pathogenesis and therapeutic method.
PMCID: PMC3549733  PMID: 22882874
Street strain rabies virus; Brain infection; MicroRNA profiling; Gene profiling; Target prediction; Functional enrichment
18.  A replication-deficient rabies virus vaccine expressing Ebola virus glycoprotein is highly attenuated for neurovirulence 
Virology  2012;434(1):18-26.
We are developing inactivated and live-attenuated rabies virus (RABV) vaccines expressing Ebola virus (EBOV) glycoprotein for use in humans and endangered wildlife, respectively. Here, we further characterize the pathogenesis of the live-attenuated RABV/EBOV vaccine candidates in mice in an effort to define their growth properties and potential for safety. RABV vaccines expressing GP (RV-GP) or a replication-deficient derivative with a deletion of the RABV G gene (RVΔG-GP) are both avirulent after intracerebral inoculation of adult mice. Furthermore, RVΔG-GP is completely avirulent upon intracerebral inoculation of suckling mice unlike parental RABV vaccine or RV-GP. Analysis of RVΔG-GP in the brain by quantitative PCR, determination of virus titer, and immunohistochemistry indicated greatly restricted virus replication. In summary, our findings indicate that RV-GP retains the attenuation phenotype of the live-attenuated RABV vaccine, and RVΔG-GP would appear to be an even safer alternative for use in wildlife or consideration for human use.
PMCID: PMC3484205  PMID: 22889613
Ebola virus; rabies virus; vaccine; neurovirulence; mice
19.  Molecular Inferences Suggest Multiple Host Shifts of Rabies Viruses from Bats to Mesocarnivores in Arizona during 2001–2009 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(6):e1002786.
In nature, rabies virus (RABV; genus Lyssavirus, family Rhabdoviridae) represents an assemblage of phylogenetic lineages, associated with specific mammalian host species. Although it is generally accepted that RABV evolved originally in bats and further shifted to carnivores, mechanisms of such host shifts are poorly understood, and examples are rarely present in surveillance data. Outbreaks in carnivores caused by a RABV variant, associated with big brown bats, occurred repeatedly during 2001–2009 in the Flagstaff area of Arizona. After each outbreak, extensive control campaigns were undertaken, with no reports of further rabies cases in carnivores for the next several years. However, questions remained whether all outbreaks were caused by a single introduction and further perpetuation of bat RABV in carnivore populations, or each outbreak was caused by an independent introduction of a bat virus. Another question of concern was related to adaptive changes in the RABV genome associated with host shifts. To address these questions, we sequenced and analyzed 66 complete and 20 nearly complete RABV genomes, including those from the Flagstaff area and other similar outbreaks in carnivores, caused by bat RABVs, and representatives of the major RABV lineages circulating in North America and worldwide. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that each Flagstaff outbreak was caused by an independent introduction of bat RABV into populations of carnivores. Positive selection analysis confirmed the absence of post-shift changes in RABV genes. In contrast, convergent evolution analysis demonstrated several amino acids in the N, P, G and L proteins, which might be significant for pre-adaptation of bat viruses to cause effective infection in carnivores. The substitution S/T242 in the viral glycoprotein is of particular merit, as a similar substitution was suggested for pathogenicity of Nishigahara RABV strain. Roles of the amino acid changes, detected in our study, require additional investigations, using reverse genetics and other approaches.
Author Summary
Host shifts of the rabies virus (RABV) from bats to carnivores are important for our understanding of viral evolution and emergence, and have significant public health implications, particularly for the areas where “terrestrial” rabies has been eliminated. In this study we addressed several rabies outbreaks in carnivores that occurred in the Flagstaff area of Arizona during 2001–2009, and caused by the RABV variant associated with big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). Based on phylogenetic analysis we demonstrated that each outbreak resulted from a separate introduction of bat RABV into populations of carnivores. No post-shift changes in viral genomes were detected under the positive selection analysis. Trying to answer the question why certain bat RABV variants are capable for host shifts to carnivores and other variants are not, we developed a convergent evolution analysis, and implemented it for multiple RABV lineages circulating worldwide. This analysis identified several amino acids in RABV proteins which may facilitate host shifts from bats to carnivores. Precise roles of these amino acids require additional investigations, using reverse genetics and animal experimentation. In general, our approach and the results obtained can be used for prediction of host shifts and emergence of other zoonotic pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3380930  PMID: 22737076
20.  ICAM-1-Based Rabies Virus Vaccine Shows Increased Infection and Activation of Primary Murine B Cells In Vitro and Enhanced Antibody Titers In-Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87098.
We have previously shown that live-attenuated rabies virus (RABV)-based vaccines infect and directly activate murine and human primary B cells in-vitro, which we propose can be exploited to help develop a single-dose RABV-based vaccine. Here we report on a novel approach to utilize the binding of Intracellular Adhesion Molecule-1 (ICAM-1) to its binding partner, Lymphocyte Function-associated Antigen-1 (LFA-1), on B cells to enhance B cell activation and RABV-specific antibody responses. We used a reverse genetics approach to clone, recover, and characterize a live-attenuated recombinant RABV-based vaccine expressing the murine Icam1 gene (rRABV-mICAM-1). We show that the murine ICAM-1 gene product is incorporated into virus particles, potentially exposing ICAM-1 to extracellular binding partners. While rRABV-mICAM-1 showed 10-100-fold decrease in viral titers on baby hamster kidney cells compared to the parental virus (rRABV), rRABV-mICAM-1 infected and activated primary murine B cells in-vitro more efficiently than rRABV, as indicated by significant upregulation of CD69, CD40, and MHCII on the surface of infected B cells. ICAM-1 expression on the virus surface was responsible for enhanced B cell infection since pre-treating rRABV-mICAM-1 with a neutralizing anti-ICAM-1 antibody reduced B cell infection to levels observed with rRABV alone. Furthermore, 100-fold less rRABV-mICAM-1 was needed to induce antibody titers in immunized mice equivalent to antibody titers observed in rRABV-immunized mice. Of note, only 103 focus forming units (ffu)/mouse of rRABV-mICAM-1 was needed to induce significant anti-RABV antibody titers as early as five days post-immunization. As both speed and potency of antibody responses are important in controlling human RABV infection in a post-exposure setting, these data show that expression of Icam1 from the RABV genome, which is then incorporated into the virus particle, is a promising strategy for the development of a single-dose RABV vaccine that requires only a minimum of virus.
PMCID: PMC3906113  PMID: 24489846
21.  Intramuscular Inoculation of Mice with the Live-Attenuated Recombinant Rabies Virus TriGAS Results in a Transient Infection of the Draining Lymph Nodes and a Robust, Long-Lasting Protective Immune Response against Rabies 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(3):1834-1841.
A single intramuscular application of the live but not UV-inactivated recombinant rabies virus (RABV) variant TriGAS in mice induces the robust and sustained production of RABV-neutralizing antibodies that correlate with long-term protection against challenge with an otherwise lethal dose of the wild-type RABV. To obtain insight into the mechanism by which live TriGAS induces long-lasting protective immunity, quantitative PCR (qPCR) analysis of muscle tissue, draining lymph nodes, spleen, spinal cord, and brain at different times after TriGAS inoculation revealed the presence of significant copy numbers of RABV-specific RNA in muscle, lymph node, and to a lesser extent, spleen for several days postinfection. Notably, no significant amounts of RABV RNA were detected in brain or spinal cord at any time after TriGAS inoculation. Differential qPCR analysis revealed that the RABV-specific RNA detected in muscle is predominantly genomic RNA, whereas RABV RNA detected in draining lymph nodes is predominantly mRNA. Comparison of genomic RNA and mRNA obtained from isolated lymph node cells showed the highest mRNA-to-genomic-RNA ratios in B cells and dendritic cells (DCs), suggesting that these cells represent the major cell population that is infected in the lymph node. Since RABV RNA declined to undetectable levels by 14 days postinoculation of TriGAS, we speculate that a transient infection of DCs with TriGAS may be highly immunostimulatory through mechanisms that enhance antigen presentation. Our results support the superior efficacy and safety of TriGAS and advocate for its utility as a vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3554143  PMID: 23192867
22.  Cellular Chaperonin CCTγ Contributes to Rabies Virus Replication during Infection 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(13):7608-7621.
Rabies, as the oldest known infectious disease, remains a serious threat to public health worldwide. The eukaryotic cytosolic chaperonin TRiC/CCT complex facilitates the folding of proteins through ATP hydrolysis. Here, we investigated the expression, cellular localization, and function of neuronal CCTγ during neurotropic rabies virus (RABV) infection using mouse N2a cells as a model. Following RABV infection, 24 altered proteins were identified by using two-dimensional electrophoresis and mass spectrometry, including 20 upregulated proteins and 4 downregulated proteins. In mouse N2a cells infected with RABV or cotransfected with RABV genes encoding nucleoprotein (N) and phosphoprotein (P), confocal microscopy demonstrated that upregulated cellular CCTγ was colocalized with viral proteins N and P, which formed a hollow cricoid inclusion within the region around the nucleus. These inclusions, which correspond to Negri bodies (NBs), did not form in mouse N2a cells only expressing the viral protein N or P. Knockdown of CCTγ by lentivirus-mediated RNA interference led to significant inhibition of RABV replication. These results demonstrate that the complex consisting of viral proteins N and P recruits CCTγ to NBs and identify the chaperonin CCTγ as a host factor that facilitates intracellular RABV replication. This work illustrates how viruses can utilize cellular chaperonins and compartmentalization for their own benefit.
PMCID: PMC3700271  PMID: 23637400
23.  Evolutionary History of Rabies in Ghana 
Rabies virus (RABV) is enzootic throughout Africa, with the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) being the principal vector. Dog rabies is estimated to cause 24,000 human deaths per year in Africa, however, this estimate is still considered to be conservative. Two sub-Saharan African RABV lineages have been detected in West Africa. Lineage 2 is present throughout West Africa, whereas Africa 1a dominates in northern and eastern Africa, but has been detected in Nigeria and Gabon, and Africa 1b was previously absent from West Africa. We confirmed the presence of RABV in a cohort of 76 brain samples obtained from rabid animals in Ghana collected over an eighteen-month period (2007–2009). Phylogenetic analysis of the sequences obtained confirmed all viruses to be RABV, belonging to lineages previously detected in sub-Saharan Africa. However, unlike earlier reported studies that suggested a single lineage (Africa 2) circulates in West Africa, we identified viruses belonging to the Africa 2 lineage and both Africa 1 (a and b) sub-lineages. Phylogeographic Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo analysis of a 405 bp fragment of the RABV nucleoprotein gene from the 76 new sequences derived from Ghanaian animals suggest that within the Africa 2 lineage three clades co-circulate with their origins in other West African countries. Africa 1a is probably a western extension of a clade circulating in central Africa and the Africa 1b virus a probable recent introduction from eastern Africa. We also developed and tested a novel reverse-transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for the detection of RABV in African laboratories. This RT-LAMP was shown to detect both Africa 1 and 2 viruses, including its adaptation to a lateral flow device format for product visualization. These data suggest that RABV epidemiology is more complex than previously thought in West Africa and that there have been repeated introductions of RABV into Ghana. This analysis highlights the potential problems of individual developing nations implementing rabies control programmes in the absence of a regional programme.
Author Summary
Rabies virus (RABV) is widespread throughout Africa, with the domestic dog being the principal vector. Dog rabies is estimated to cause 24,000 human deaths per year in Africa, however, this estimate is still considered to be conservative. Two sub-Saharan African RABV lineages (Africa 1 and 2) are thought to circulate in western and central Africa. We confirmed the presence of RABV in a cohort of 76 brain samples obtained from rabid animals in Ghana collected from 2007 to 2009. In addition we developed and tested a novel molecular diagnostic assay for the detection of RABV, which offers an alternative RABV diagnostic tool for African laboratories. Our analysis of the genetic sequences obtained confirmed all viruses to be RABV, however, unlike previous studies we detected two sub-Saharan African RABV viruses (Africa 1 and 2) in this cohort, which included a single virus previously undetected in West Africa. We suggest that there has been repeated introduction of new RABVs into Ghana over a prolonged period from other West African countries and more recently from eastern Africa. These observations further highlight the problems of individual developing nations implementing rabies control programmes at a local, rather than regional level.
PMCID: PMC3071360  PMID: 21483707
24.  Immunization of mice with the non-toxic HC50 domain of botulinum neurotoxin presented by rabies virus particles induces a strong immune response affording protection against high-dose botulinum neurotoxin challenge 
Vaccine  2011;29(28):4638-4645.
We previously showed that rabies virus (RABV) virions are excellent vehicles for antigen presentation. Here, a reverse genetic approach was applied to generate recombinant RABV that express a chimeric protein composed of the heavy chain carboxyterminal half (HC50) of botulinum neurotoxin type A (BoNT/A) and RABV glycoprotein (G). To promote surface expression and incorporation of HC50/A into RABV virions, the RABV glycoprotein (G) ER translocation sequence, various fragments of RABV ectodomain (ED) and cytoplasmic domain were fused to HC50/A. The HC50/A chimeric proteins were expressed on the surface of cells infected with all of the recombinant RABVs, however, the highest level of surface expression was detected by utilizing 30 amino acids of the RABV G ED (HV50/A-E30). Our results also indicated that this chimeric protein was effectively incorporated into RABV virions. Immunization of mice with inactivated RABV-HC50/A-E30 virions induced a robust anti-HC50/A IgG antibody response that efficiently neutralized circulating BoNT/A in vivo, and protected mice against 1000 fold the lethal dose of BoNT/A.
PMCID: PMC3114282  PMID: 21549784
25.  Intracerebral Administration of Recombinant Rabies Virus Expressing GM-CSF Prevents the Development of Rabies after Infection with Street Virus 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25414.
Recently it was found that prior immunization with recombinant rabies virus (RABV) expressing granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) (LBNSE-GM-CSF) resulted in high innate/adaptive immune responses and protection against challenge with virulent RABV (Wen et al., JVI, 2011). In this study, the ability of LBNSE-GM-CSF to prevent animals from developing rabies was investigated in mice after infection with lethal doses of street RABV. It was found that intracerebral administration of LBNSE-GM-CSF protected more mice from developing rabies than sham-treated mice as late as day 5 after infection with street RABV. Intracerebral administration of LBNSE-GM-CSF resulted in significantly higher levels of chemokine/cytokine expression and more infiltration of inflammatory and immune cells into the central nervous system (CNS) than sham-administration or administration with UV-inactivated LBNSE-GM-CSF. Enhancement of blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability and increases in virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) were also observed in mice treated with LBNSE-GM-CSF. On the other hand, intracerebral administration with UV-inactivated LBNSE-GM-CSF did not increase protection despite the fact that VNA were induced in the periphery. However, intracerebral administration with chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1, also termed CCL2) increased significantly the protective efficacy of UV-inactivated LBNSE-GM-CSF. Together these studies confirm that direct administration of LBNSE-GM-CSF can enhance the innate and adaptive immunity as well as the BBB permeability, thus allowing infiltration of inflammatory cells and other immune effectors enter into the CNS to clear the virus and prevent the development of rabies.
PMCID: PMC3182207  PMID: 21980450

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