Eleven different lyssavirus species, four of which occur on the African continent, are presently recognized. These viruses cause rabies, the burden of which is highest in the developing world, where routine laboratory diagnosis is often not available. From an epidemiological and control perspective, it is necessary that diagnostic methods detect the diversity of lyssaviruses present in different regions of the world. A published and widely used heminested reverse transcription-PCR (hnRT-PCR) was evaluated for its ability to detect a panel of diverse African lyssaviruses. Due to the limitations experienced for this assay, an alternative hnRT-PCR was developed. The new assay was found to be accurate and sensitive in the detection of African lyssavirus RNA in a variety of clinical specimens. The assay was further adapted to a real-time PCR platform to allow rapid, one-step, quantitative, and single-probe detection, and an internal control for the verification of sample preparation was included. The limit of detection of the real-time PCR assay was 10 RNA copies per reaction, with inter- and intra-assay variability below 4%. Subsequently, in demonstrating utility, both assays were successfully applied to antemortem rabies diagnosis in humans. We believe that the quantitative real-time PCR assay could find application as a routine confirmatory test for rabies diagnosis in the future and that it will serve as a valuable research tool in the biology of African lyssaviruses. Alternatively, the hnRT-PCR assay can be used in laboratories that do not have access to expensive real-time PCR equipment for sensitive diagnosis of lyssaviruses.
A generic two-step lyssavirus real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), based on a nested PCR strategy, was validated for the detection of different lyssavirus species. Primers with 17 to 30% of degenerate bases were used in both consecutive steps. The assay could accurately detect RABV, LBV, MOKV, DUVV, EBLV-1, EBLV-2, and ABLV. In silico sequence alignment showed a functional match with the remaining lyssavirus species. The diagnostic specificity was 100% and the sensitivity proved to be superior to that of the fluorescent antigen test. The limit of detection was ≤1 50% tissue culture infectious dose. The related vesicular stomatitis virus was not recognized, confirming the selectivity for lyssaviruses. The assay was applied to follow the evolution of rabies virus infection in the brain of mice from 0 to 10 days after intranasal inoculation. The obtained RNA curve corresponded well with the curves obtained by a one-step monospecific RABV-qRT-PCR, the fluorescent antigen test, and virus titration. Despite the presence of degenerate bases, the assay proved to be highly sensitive, specific, and reproducible.
► Universal real-time PCR primer pair demonstrated to hybridize to and detect each of the known Lyssaviruses (including Rabies virus) with greater sensitivity than a standard pan-Lyssavirus hemi-nested RT-PCR typically used. ► Target sequences of bat derived virus species unavailable for analysis (Aravan-, Khujand-, Irkut-, West Caucasian bat- and Shimoni bat virus) were synthesized to produce oligonucleotides and the synthetic DNA was used as a target for primer hybridization.
Rabies virus (RABV) is enzootic throughout most of the world. It is now widely accepted that RABV had its origins in bats. Ten of the 11 Lyssavirus species recognised, including RABV, have been isolated from bats. There is, however, a lack of understanding regarding both the ecology and host reservoirs of Lyssaviruses. A real-time PCR assay for the detection of all Lyssaviruses using universal primers would be beneficial for Lyssavirus surveillance. It was shown that using SYBR® Green, a universal real-time PCR primer pair previously demonstrated to detect European bat Lyssaviruses 1 and 2, and RABV, was able to detect reverse transcribed RNA for each of the seven virus species available to us. Target sequences of bat derived virus species unavailable for analysis were synthesized to produce oligonucleotides. Lagos Bat-, Duvenhage- and Mokola virus full nucleoprotein gene clones enabled a limit of 5–50 plasmid copies to be detected. Five copies of each of the synthetic DNA oligonucleotides of Aravan-, Khujand-, Irkut-, West Caucasian bat- and Shimoni bat virus were detected. The single universal primer pair was therefore able to detect each of the most divergent known Lyssaviruses with great sensitivity.
Lyssavirus; Rabies; Bat; SYBR Green; Real-time PCR; Synthetic DNA
Rabies is a lethal and notifiable zoonotic disease for which diagnostics have to meet the highest standards. In recent years, an evolution was especially seen in molecular diagnostics with a wide variety of different detection methods published. Therefore, a first international ring trial specifically designed on the use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for detection of lyssavirus genomic RNA was organized. The trial focussed on assessment and comparison of the performance of conventional and real-time assays. In total, 16 European laboratories participated. All participants were asked to investigate a panel of defined lyssavirus RNAs, consisting of Rabies virus (RABV) and European bat lyssavirus 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and -2) RNA samples, with systems available in their laboratory.
The ring trial allowed the important conclusion that conventional RT-PCR assays were really robust assays tested with a high concordance between different laboratories and assays. The real-time RT-PCR system by Wakeley et al. (2005) in combination with an intercalating dye, and the combined version by Hoffmann and co-workers (2010) showed good sensitivity for the detection of all RABV samples included in this test panel. Furthermore, all used EBLV-specific assays, real-time RT-PCRs as well as conventional RT-PCR systems, were shown to be suitable for a reliable detection of EBLVs. It has to be mentioned that differences were seen in the performance between both the individual RT-PCR systems and the laboratories. Laboratories which used more than one molecular assay for testing the sample panel always concluded a correct sample result.
Due to the markedly high genetic diversity of lyssaviruses, the application of different assays in diagnostics is needed to achieve a maximum of diagnostic accuracy. To improve the knowledge about the diagnostic performance proficiency testing at an international level is recommended before using lyssavirus molecular diagnostics e.g. for confirmatory testing.
Background and objectives
Bats are recognized as a major reservoir of lyssaviruses; however, no bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Asia except for Aravan and Khujand virus in Central Asia. All Chinese lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been of species rabies virus, mainly from dogs. Following at least two recent bat-associated human rabies-like cases in northeast China, we have initiated a study of the prevalence of lyssaviruses in bats in Jilin province and their public health implications. A bat lyssavirus has been isolated and its pathogenicity in mice and genomic alignment have been determined.
We report the first isolation of a bat lyssavirus in China, from the brain of a northeastern bat, Murina leucogaster. Its nucleoprotein gene shared 92.4%/98.9% (nucleotide) and 92.2%/98.8% (amino acid) identity with the two known Irkut virus isolates from Russia, and was designated IRKV-THChina12. Following intracranial and intramuscular injection, IRKV-THChina12 produced rabies-like symptoms in adult mice with a short inoculation period and high mortality. Nucleotide sequence analysis showed that IRKV-THChina12 has the same genomic organization as other lyssaviruses and its isolation provides an independent origin for the species IRKV.
We have identified the existence of a bat lyssavirus in a common Chinese bat species. Its high pathogenicity in adult mice suggests that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
The Lyssavirus genus presently comprises 12 species and two unapproved species with different antigenic characteristics. Rabies virus is detectable worldwide; Lagos bat virus, Mokola virus, Duvenhage virus, Shimoni bat virus, and Ikoma lyssavirus circulate in Africa; European bat lyssavirus types 1 and 2, Irkut virus, West Caucasian bat virus, and Bokeloh bat lyssavirus are found in Europe; and Australian bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Australia. Only Aravan and Khujand viruses have been identified in central Asia. Bats are recognized as the most important reservoirs of lyssaviruses. In China, all lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been rabies virus, mainly from dogs; none has been from bats. Recently, however, at least two bat-associated human rabies or rabies-like cases have been reported in northeast China. Therefore, we conducted a search for bat lyssaviruses in Jilin province, close to where the first bat-associated human rabies case was recorded. We isolated a bat lyssavirus, identified as an Irkut virus isolate with high pathogenicity in experimental mice. Our findings suggest that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance should be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
Lyssaviruses are unsegmented RNA viruses causing rabies. Their vectors belong to the Carnivora and Chiroptera orders. We studied 36 carnivoran and 17 chiropteran lyssaviruses representing the main genotypes and variants. We compared their genes encoding the surface glycoprotein, which is responsible for receptor recognition and membrane fusion. The glycoprotein is the main protecting antigen and bears virulence determinants. Point mutation is the main force in lyssavirus evolution, as Sawyer's test and phylogenetic analysis showed no evidence of recombination. Tests of neutrality indicated a neutral model of evolution, also supported by globally high ratios of synonymous substitutions (dS) to nonsynonymous substitutions (dN) (>7). Relative-rate tests suggested similar rates of evolution for all lyssavirus lineages. Therefore, the absence of recombination and similar evolutionary rates make phylogeny-based conclusions reliable. Phylogenetic reconstruction strongly supported the hypothesis that host switching occurred in the history of lyssaviruses. Indeed, lyssaviruses evolved in chiropters long before the emergence of carnivoran rabies, very likely following spillovers from bats. Using dated isolates, the average rate of evolution was estimated to be roughly 4.3 × 10−4 dS/site/year. Consequently, the emergence of carnivoran rabies from chiropteran lyssaviruses was determined to have occurred 888 to 1,459 years ago. Glycoprotein segments accumulating more dN than dS were distinctly detected in carnivoran and chiropteran lyssaviruses. They may have contributed to the adaptation of the virus to the two distinct mammal orders. In carnivoran lyssaviruses they overlapped the main antigenic sites, II and III, whereas in chiropteran lyssaviruses they were located in regions of unknown functions.
Several reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) methods have been reported for the detection of rabies and rabies-related viruses. These methods invariably involve multiple transfers of nucleic acids between different tubes, with the risk of contamination leading to the production of false-positive results. Here we describe a single, closed-tube, nonnested RT-PCR with TaqMan technology that distinguishes between classical rabies virus (genotype 1) and European bat lyssaviruses 1 and 2 (genotypes 5 and 6) in real time. The TaqMan assay is rapid, sensitive, and specific and allows for the genotyping of unknown isolates concomitant with the RT-PCR. The assay can be applied quantitatively and the use of an internal control enables the quality of the isolated template to be assessed. Despite sequence heterogeneity in the N gene between the different genotypes, a universal forward and reverse primer set has been designed, allowing for the simplification of previously described assays. We propose that within a geographically constrained area, this assay will be a useful tool for the detection and differentiation of members of the Lyssavirus genus.
In 2009, a novel lyssavirus (subsequently named Ikoma lyssavirus, IKOV) was detected in the brain of an African civet (Civettictis civetta) with clinical rabies in the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The degree of nucleotide divergence between the genome of IKOV and those of other lyssaviruses predicted antigenic distinction from, and lack of protection provided by, available rabies vaccines. In addition, the index case was considered likely to be an incidental spillover event, and therefore the true reservoir of IKOV remained to be identified. The advent of sensitive molecular techniques has led to a rapid increase in the discovery of novel viruses. Detecting viral sequence alone, however, only allows for prediction of phenotypic characteristics and not their measurement. In the present study we describe the in vitro and in vivo characterization of IKOV, demonstrating that it is (1) pathogenic by peripheral inoculation in an animal model, (2) antigenically distinct from current rabies vaccine strains and (3) poorly neutralized by sera from humans and animals immunized against rabies. In a laboratory mouse model, no protection was elicited by a licensed rabies vaccine. We also investigated the role of bats as reservoirs of IKOV. We found no evidence for infection among 483 individuals of at least 13 bat species sampled across sites in the Serengeti and Southern Kenya.
In Germany, rabies in bats is a notifiable zoonotic disease, which is caused by European bat lyssaviruses type 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and 2), and the recently discovered new lyssavirus species Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV). As the understanding of bat rabies in insectivorous bat species is limited, in addition to routine bat rabies diagnosis, an enhanced passive surveillance study, i.e. the retrospective investigation of dead bats that had not been tested for rabies, was initiated in 1998 to study the distribution, abundance and epidemiology of lyssavirus infections in bats from Germany. A total number of 5478 individuals representing 21 bat species within two families were included in this study. The Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) and the Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) represented the most specimens submitted. Of all investigated bats, 1.17% tested positive for lyssaviruses using the fluorescent antibody test (FAT). The vast majority of positive cases was identified as EBLV-1, predominately associated with the Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus). However, rabies cases in other species, i.e. Nathusius' pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), P. pipistrellus and Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) were also characterized as EBLV-1. In contrast, EBLV-2 was isolated from three Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii). These three cases contribute significantly to the understanding of EBLV-2 infections in Germany as only one case had been reported prior to this study. This enhanced passive surveillance indicated that besides known reservoir species, further bat species are affected by lyssavirus infections. Given the increasing diversity of lyssaviruses and bats as reservoir host species worldwide, lyssavirus positive specimens, i.e. both bat and virus need to be confirmed by molecular techniques.
According to the World Health Organization rabies is considered both a neglected zoonotic and a tropical disease. The causative agents are lyssaviruses which have their primary reservoir in bats. Although bat rabies is notifiable in Germany, the number of submitted bats during routine surveillance is rarely representative of the natural bat population. Therefore, the aim of this study was to include dead bats from various sources for enhanced bat rabies surveillance. The results show that a considerable number of additional bat rabies cases can be detected, thus improving the knowledge on the frequency, geographical distribution and reservoir-association of bat lyssavirus infections in Germany. The overall proportion of positives was lower than during routine surveillance in Germany. While the majority of cases were found in the Serotine bat and characterized as European bat lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1), three of the four EBLV-2 infections detected in Germany were found in Myotis daubentonii during this study.
We have developed a new strategy for antiviral peptide discovery by using lyssaviruses (rabies virus and rabies-related viruses) as models. Based on the mimicry of natural bioactive peptides, two genetically encoded combinatorial peptide libraries composed of intrinsically constrained peptides (coactamers) were designed. Proteomic knowledge concerning the functional network of interactions in the lyssavirus transcription-replication complex highlights the phosphoprotein (P) as a prime target for inhibitors of viral replication. We present an integrated, sequential drug discovery process for selection of peptides with antiviral activity directed against the P. Our approach combines (i) an exhaustive two-hybrid selection of peptides binding two phylogenetically divergent lyssavirus P's, (ii) a functional analysis of protein interaction inhibition in a viral reverse genetic assay, coupled with a physical analysis of viral nucleoprotein-P complex by protein chip mass spectrometry, and (iii) an assay for inhibition of lyssavirus infection in mammalian cells. The validity of this strategy was demonstrated by the identification of four peptides exhibiting an efficient antiviral activity. Our work highlights the importance of P as a target in anti-rabies virus drug discovery. Furthermore, the screening strategy and the coactamer libraries presented in this report could be considered, respectively, a general target validation strategy and a potential source of biologically active peptides which could also help to design pharmacologically active peptide-mimicking molecules. The strategy described here is easily applicable to other pathogens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lyssaviruses, which are members of the Rhabdoviridae family, induce apoptosis, which plays an important role in the neuropathogenesis of rabies. However, the mechanisms by which these viruses mediate neuronal apoptosis have not been elucidated. Here we demonstrate that the early induction of apoptosis in a model of lyssavirus-infected neuroblastoma cells involves a TRAIL-dependent pathway requiring the activation of caspase-8 but not of caspase-9 or caspase-10. The activation of caspase-8 results in the activation of caspase-3 and caspase-6, as shown by an increase in the cleavage of the specific caspase substrate in lyssavirus-infected cells. However, neither caspase-1 nor caspase-2 activity was detected during the early phase of infection. Lyssavirus-mediated cell death involves an interaction between TRAIL receptors and TRAIL, as demonstrated by experiments using neutralizing antibodies and soluble decoy TRAIL-R1/R2 receptors. We also demonstrated that the decapsidation and replication of lyssavirus are essential for inducing apoptosis, as supported by UV inactivation, cycloheximide treatment, and the use of bafilomycin A1 to inhibit endosomal acidification. Transfection of cells with the matrix protein induced apoptosis using pathways similar to those described in the context of viral infection. Furthermore, our data suggest that the matrix protein of lyssaviruses plays a major role in the early induction of TRAIL-mediated apoptosis by the release of a soluble, active form of TRAIL. In our model, Fas ligand (CD95L) appears to play a limited role in lyssavirus-mediated neuroblastoma cell death. Similarly, tumor necrosis factor alpha does not appear to play an important role.
Control of rabies requires a consistent supply of dependable resources, constructive cooperation between veterinary and public health authorities, and systematic surveillance. These are challenging in any circumstances, but particularly during conflict. Here we describe available human rabies surveillance data from Iraq, results of renewed sampling for rabies in animals, and the first genetic characterisation of circulating rabies strains from Iraq. Human rabies is notifiable, with reported cases increasing since 2003, and a marked increase in Baghdad between 2009 and 2010. These changes coincide with increasing numbers of reported dog bites. There is no laboratory confirmation of disease or virus characterisation and no systematic surveillance for rabies in animals. To address these issues, brain samples were collected from domestic animals in the greater Baghdad region and tested for rabies. Three of 40 brain samples were positive using the fluorescent antibody test and hemi-nested RT-PCR for rabies virus (RABV). Bayesian phylogenetic analysis using partial nucleoprotein gene sequences derived from the samples demonstrated the viruses belong to a single virus variant and share a common ancestor with viruses from neighbouring countries, 22 (95% HPD 14–32) years ago. These include countries lying to the west, north and east of Iraq, some of which also have other virus variants circulating concurrently. These results suggest possible multiple introductions of rabies into the Middle East, and regular trans-boundary movement of disease. Although 4000 years have passed since the original description of disease consistent with rabies, animals and humans are still dying of this preventable and neglected zoonosis.
Control of rabies requires cooperation between government departments, consistent funding, and an understanding of the epidemiology of the disease obtained through surveillance. Here we describe human rabies surveillance data from Iraq and the results of renewed sampling for rabies in animals. In Iraq, it is obligatory by law to report cases of human rabies. These reports were collated and analysed. Reported cases have increased since 2003, with a marked increase in Baghdad 2009–2010. There is no system for detecting rabies in animals and the strains circulating in Iraq have not previously been characterized. To address this, samples were collected from domestic animals in Baghdad and tested for rabies. Three out of 40 were positive for rabies virus. Comparison of part of the viral genetic sequence with other viruses from the region demonstrated that the viruses from Iraq are more closely related to each other than those from surrounding countries, but diverged from viruses isolated in neighbouring countries approximately 22 (95% HPD 14–32) years ago. Although 4000 years have passed since the original description of disease consistent with rabies, animals and humans are still dying of this preventable and neglected zoonosis.
Lyssavirus assembly depends on the matrix protein (M). We compared lyssavirus M proteins from different genotypes for their ability to support assembly and egress of genotype 1 rabies virus (RABV). Transcomplementation of M-deficient RABV with M from European bat lyssavirus (EBLV) types 1 and 2 reduced the release of infectious virus. Stable introduction of the heterogenotypic M proteins into RABV led to chimeric viruses with reduced virus release and intracellular accumulation of virus genomes. Although the chimeras indicated genotype-specific evolution of M, rapid selection of a compensatory mutant suggested conserved mechanisms of lyssavirus assembly and the requirement for only few adaptive mutations to fit the heterogenotypic M to a RABV backbone. Whereas the compensatory mutant replicated to similar infectious titers as RABV M-expressing virus, ultrastructural analysis revealed that both nonadapted EBLV M chimeras and the compensatory mutant differed from RABV M expressing viruses in the lack of intracellular viruslike structures that are enveloped and accumulate in cisterna of the degranulated and dilated rough endoplasmic reticulum compartment. Moreover, all viruses were able to bud at the plasma membrane. Since the lack of the intracellular viruslike structures correlated with the type of M protein but not with the efficiency of virus release, we hypothesize that the M proteins of EBLV-1 and RABV differ in their target membranes for virus assembly. Although the biological function of intracellular assembly and accumulation of viruslike structures in the endoplasmic reticulum remain unclear, the observed differences could contribute to diverse host tropism or pathogenicity.
Surveillance for lyssaviruses was conducted among bat populations in 8 provinces in Thailand. In 2002 and 2003, a total of 932 bats of 11 species were captured and released after serum collection. Lyssavirus infection was determined by conducting virus neutralization assays on bat serum samples. Of collected samples, 538 were either hemolysed or insufficient in volume, which left 394 suitable for analysis. These samples included the following: Pteropus lylei (n = 335), Eonycteris spelaea (n = 45), Hipposideros armiger (n = 13), and Rousettus leschennaulti (n = 1). No serum samples had evidence of neutralizing antibodies when tested against rabies virus. However, 16 samples had detectable neutralizing antibodies against Aravan virus, Khujand virus, Irkut virus, or Australian bat lyssavirus; all were specifically associated with fruit bats P. lylei (n = 15) and E. spelaea (n = 1). These results are consistent with the presence of naturally occurring viruses related to new putative lyssavirus genotypes.
Lyssavirus; rabies; RNA; bat; chiroptera; zoonosis; animals; fluorescent antibody technique; direct/veterinary; Thailand; research
An oligonucleotide microarray, LyssaChip, has been developed and verified as a highly specific diagnostic tool for differentiation of the 7 major lyssavirus species. As with conventional typing microarray methods, the LyssaChip relies on sequence differences in the 371-nucleotide region coding for the nucleoprotein. This region was amplified using nested reverse transcription-PCR primers that bind to the 7 major lyssaviruses. The LyssaChip includes 57 pairs of species typing and corresponding control oligonucleotide probes (oligoprobes) immobilized on glass slides, and it can analyze 12 samples on a single slide within 8 h. Analysis of 111 clinical brain specimens (65 from animals with suspected rabies submitted to the laboratory and 46 of butchered dog brain tissues collected from restaurants) showed that the chip method was 100% sensitive and highly consistent with the “gold standard,” a fluorescent antibody test (FAT). The chip method could detect rabies virus in highly decayed brain tissues, whereas the FAT did not, and therefore the chip test may be more applicable to highly decayed brain tissues than the FAT. LyssaChip may provide a convenient and inexpensive alternative for diagnosis and differentiation of rabies and rabies-related diseases.
Brain analysis cannot be used for the investigation of active lyssavirus infection in healthy bats because most bat species are protected by conservation directives. Consequently, serology remains the only tool for performing virological studies on natural bat populations; however, the presence of antibodies merely reflects past exposure to the virus and is not a valid marker of active infection. This work describes a new nested reverse transcription (RT)-PCR technique specifically designed for the detection of the European bat virus 1 on oropharyngeal swabs obtained from bats but also able to amplify RNA from the remaining rabies-related lyssaviruses in brain samples. The technique was successfully used for surveillance of a serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) colony involved in a case of human exposure, in which 15 out of 71 oropharyngeal swabs were positive. Lyssavirus infection was detected on 13 oropharyngeal swabs but in only 5 brains out of the 34 animals from which simultaneous brain and oropharyngeal samples had been taken. The lyssavirus involved could be rapidly identified by automatic sequencing of the RT-PCR products obtained from 14 brains and three bat oropharyngeal swabs. In conclusion, RT-PCR using oropharyngeal swabs will permit screening of wild bat populations for active lyssavirus infection, for research or epidemiological purposes, in line not only with conservation policies but also in a more efficient manner than classical detection techniques used on the brain.
The genetic diversity of representative members of the Lyssavirus genus (rabies and rabies-related viruses) was evaluated using the gene encoding the transmembrane glycoprotein involved in the virus-host interaction, immunogenicity, and pathogenicity. Phylogenetic analysis distinguished seven genotypes, which could be divided into two major phylogroups having the highest bootstrap values. Phylogroup I comprises the worldwide genotype 1 (classic Rabies virus), the European bat lyssavirus (EBL) genotypes 5 (EBL1) and 6 (EBL2), the African genotype 4 (Duvenhage virus), and the Australian bat lyssavirus genotype 7. Phylogroup II comprises the divergent African genotypes 2 (Lagos bat virus) and 3 (Mokola virus). We studied immunogenic and pathogenic properties to investigate the biological significance of this phylogenetic grouping. Viruses from phylogroup I (Rabies virus and EBL1) were found to be pathogenic for mice when injected by the intracerebral or the intramuscular route, whereas viruses from phylogroup II (Mokola and Lagos bat viruses) were only pathogenic by the intracerebral route. We showed that the glycoprotein R333 residue essential for virulence was naturally replaced by a D333 in the phylogroup II viruses, likely resulting in their attenuated pathogenicity. Moreover, cross-neutralization distinguished the same phylogroups. Within each phylogroup, the amino acid sequence of the glycoprotein ectodomain was at least 74% identical, and antiglycoprotein virus-neutralizing antibodies displayed cross-neutralization. Between phylogroups, the identity was less than 64.5% and the cross-neutralization was absent, explaining why the classical rabies vaccines (phylogroup I) cannot protect against lyssaviruses from phylogroup II. Our tree-axial analysis divided lyssaviruses into two phylogroups that more closely reflect their biological characteristics than previous serotypes and genotypes.
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.
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.
As the demand for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatments has increased exponentially in recent years, the limited supply of human and equine rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG and ERIG) has failed to provide the required passive immune component in PEP in countries where canine rabies is endemic. Replacement of HRIG and ERIG with a potentially cheaper and efficacious alternative biological for treatment of rabies in humans, therefore, remains a high priority. In this study, we set out to assess a mouse monoclonal antibody (MoMAb) cocktail with the ultimate goal to develop a product at the lowest possible cost that can be used in developing countries as a replacement for RIG in PEP. Five MoMAbs, E559.9.14, 1112-1, 62-71-3, M727-5-1, and M777-16-3, were selected from available panels based on stringent criteria, such as biological activity, neutralizing potency, binding specificity, spectrum of neutralization of lyssaviruses, and history of each hybridoma. Four of these MoMAbs recognize epitopes in antigenic site II and one recognizes an epitope in antigenic site III on the rabies virus (RABV) glycoprotein, as determined by nucleotide sequence analysis of the glycoprotein gene of unique MoMAb neutralization-escape mutants. The MoMAbs were produced under Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) conditions. Unique combinations (cocktails) were prepared, using different concentrations of the MoMAbs that were capable of targeting non-overlapping epitopes of antigenic sites II and III. Blind in vitro efficacy studies showed the MoMab cocktails neutralized a broad spectrum of lyssaviruses except for lyssaviruses belonging to phylogroups II and III. In vivo, MoMAb cocktails resulted in protection as a component of PEP that was comparable to HRIG. In conclusion, all three novel combinations of MoMAbs were shown to have equal efficacy to HRIG and therefore could be considered a potentially less expensive alternative biological agent for use in PEP and prevention of rabies in humans.
Human mortality from endemic canine rabies is estimated to be 55,000 deaths per year in Africa and Asia, yet rabies remains a neglected disease throughout most of these countries. More than 99% of human rabies cases are caused by infections resulting from a dog-bite injury. In the vast majority of human exposures to rabies, patients require post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which includes both passive (rabies immunoglobulin, RIG) and active immunization (rabies vaccine). The number of victims requiring PEP has increased exponentially in recent years, and human and equine RIG (HRIG and ERIG) were not sufficiently available in countries where canine rabies is endemic. Rabies virus-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) of mouse (Mo) origin have been identified as promising alternatives to HRIG and ERIG. We have developed and assessed both in vitro and in vivo unique mouse monoclonal antibody (MoMAb) cocktails, which are highly efficacious. Three novel combinations were shown to have an equal or superior efficacy to HRIG and therefore could be considered a potentially less expensive alternative for passive prophylactic use to prevent the development of rabies in humans, particularly where needed most in developing countries.
Rabies causes an acute fatal encephalomyelitis in most mammals following infection with rhabdovirus of the genus Lyssavirus. Little is known about rabies virus infection in species of New World non-human Primates (NHP). To investigate the suitability of the owl monkey Aotus nancymaae asissue sections examined were unremarkable for inflammation or other histologic signs of rabies a viable animal model for rabies virus candidate vaccine testing, we used clinical presentation, serology, viral isolation, and PCR to evaluate the incubation period, immunity, and pathogenesis of infected animals. We tested the hypothesis that no viremic state exists for rabies virus.
Eight monkeys divided into two equal groups were inoculated intramuscularly either in the neck or footpad with 105 pfu of rabies virus (Pasteur/V-13R) and observed for >130 days. Oral and blood samples were collected and analyzed.
Two monkeys inoculated in the neck displayed classic paralytic rabies. The mean incubation period was 11.5 days. The average maximum IgG response (antibody titer >0.200 O.D.) was achieved at day 10.0 and 62.3 in the clinical rabies and non-clinical rabies cases, respectively (p = 0.0429). No difference in IgM or IgG time to seroconversion or average maximum IgM level was observed between neck versus footpad inoculation groups. No viremia or viral shedding was detected by PCR or viral isolation during the observation period, including within the two symptomatic animals three days after disease onset. Tissue sections examined were unremarkable for inflammation or other histologic signs of rabies within the asymptomatic animal. Similarly none of the brain sections exhibited immunoreactivity for rabies virus antibody.
This study demonstrates there is no difference in time to immune response between inoculation sites and distance to the brain; however, immune response tends to be more rapid in cases of clinically apparent disease and prolonged in cases infected at sites further from the brain.
Our findings support the hypothesis that a viremic state for rabies does not exist in the New World Monkey, Aotus nancymaae, and it appears that this species may be refractory to infection. The species does provide a suitable model to assess post infection immune responses. Additional studies that address the limitations of sample size, length of observation, and lack of measurable infection should be conducted.
Rabies; Rhabdovirus; Lyssavirus; Incubation period; Viremia; Monkey; Aotus nancymaae; Non-human Primate; Ante mortem; Vaccine
The Aravan virus was isolated from a Lesser Mouse-eared Bat (Myotis blythi) in the Osh region of Kyrghyzstan, central Asia, in 1991. We determined the complete sequence of the nucleoprotein (N) gene and compared it with those of 26 representative lyssaviruses obtained from databases. The Aravan virus was distinguished from seven distinct genotypes on the basis of nucleotide and amino acid identity. Phylogenetic analysis based on both nucleotide and amino acid sequences showed that the Aravan virus was more closely related to genotypes 4, 5, and—to a lesser extent—6, which circulates among insectivorus bats in Europe and Africa. The Aravan virus does not belong to any of the seven known genotypes of lyssaviruses, namely, rabies, Lagos bat, Mokola, and Duvenhage viruses and European bat lyssavirus 1, European bat lyssavirus 2, and Australian bat lyssavirus. Based on these data, we propose a new genotype for the Lyssavirus genus.
Lyssavirus; genotype; N gene; phylogenetic analysis; bat; central Asia; research
Over two-thirds of the world's population lives in regions where rabies is endemic, resulting in over 15 million people receiving multi-dose post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and over 55,000 deaths per year globally. A major goal in rabies virus (RABV) research is to develop a single-dose PEP that would simplify vaccination protocols, reduce costs associated with RABV prevention, and save lives. Protection against RABV infections requires virus neutralizing antibodies; however, factors influencing the development of protective RABV-specific B cell responses remain to be elucidated. Here we used a mouse model of IL-21 receptor-deficiency (IL-21R−/−) to characterize the role for IL-21 in RABV vaccine-induced immunity. IL-21R−/− mice immunized with a low dose of a live recombinant RABV-based vaccine (rRABV) produced only low levels of primary or secondary anti-RABV antibody response while wild-type mice developed potent anti-RABV antibodies. Furthermore, IL-21R−/− mice immunized with low-dose rRABV were only minimally protected against pathogenic RABV challenge, while all wild-type mice survived challenge, indicating that IL-21R signaling is required for antibody production in response to low-dose RABV-based vaccination. IL-21R−/− mice immunized with a higher dose of vaccine produced suboptimal anti-RABV primary antibody responses, but showed potent secondary antibodies and protection similar to wild-type mice upon challenge with pathogenic RABV, indicating that IL-21 is dispensable for secondary antibody responses to live RABV-based vaccines when a primary response develops. Furthermore, we show that IL-21 is dispensable for the generation of Tfh cells and memory B cells in the draining lymph nodes of immunized mice but is required for the detection of optimal GC B cells or plasma cells in the lymph node or bone marrow, respectively, in a vaccine dose-dependent manner. Collectively, our preliminary data show that IL-21 is critical for the development of optimal vaccine-induced primary but not secondary antibody responses against RABV infections.
Over two-thirds of the world's population lives in regions where rabies is endemic, resulting in over 15 million people receiving post-exposure treatment. A person, disproportionately a child, dies of rabies every 20 minutes and the cost of rabies prevention exceeds $1 billion US dollars per year. The development of a single-dose human rabies vaccine would greatly reduce the burden of rabies globally by lowering the cost associated with rabies vaccination and saving lives. Understanding how B cells develop to produce protective virus neutralizing antibodies would greatly help to achieve the goal of developing a single-dose vaccine. In this report, we show that IL-21 is critical for the induction of primary vaccine-induced anti-RABV G antibody titers and that the effects of IL-21 are highly dependent on the dose of vaccine administered. In our model of rabies immunogenicity and protection, the lack of IL-21 receptor influenced the detection of B cells in germinal centers in lymph nodes or of plasma cells in bone marrow after immunization with low or high doses of vaccine, respectively. Overall, these preliminary results indicate that IL-21 has the potential to influence B cell development and functions in the context of rabies vaccine-induced immunity and protection.
With the advent of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, the ability to generate large amounts of sequence data has revolutionized the genomics field. Most RNA viruses have relatively small genomes in comparison to other organisms and as such, would appear to be an obvious success story for the use of NGS technologies. However, due to the relatively low abundance of viral RNA in relation to host RNA, RNA viruses have proved relatively difficult to sequence using NGS technologies. Here we detail a simple, robust methodology, without the use of ultra-centrifugation, filtration or viral enrichment protocols, to prepare RNA from diagnostic clinical tissue samples, cell monolayers and tissue culture supernatant, for subsequent sequencing on the Roche 454 platform.
As representative RNA viruses, full genome sequence was successfully obtained from known lyssaviruses belonging to recognized species and a novel lyssavirus species using these protocols and assembling the reads using de novo algorithms. Furthermore, genome sequences were generated from considerably less than 200 ng RNA, indicating that manufacturers’ minimum template guidance is conservative. In addition to obtaining genome consensus sequence, a high proportion of SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) were identified in the majority of samples analyzed.
The approaches reported clearly facilitate successful full genome lyssavirus sequencing and can be universally applied to discovering and obtaining consensus genome sequences of RNA viruses from a variety of sources.
Next generation sequencing; Pyrosequencing; Lyssavirus; Genome; RNA; Virus