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1.  Evolutionary History and Phylogeography of Rabies Viruses Associated with Outbreaks in Trinidad 
Bat rabies is an emerging disease of public health significance in the Americas. The Caribbean island of Trinidad experiences periodic outbreaks within the livestock population. We performed molecular characterisation of Trinidad rabies virus (RABV) and used a Bayesian phylogeographic approach to investigate the extent to which outbreaks are a result of in situ evolution versus importation of virus from the nearby South American mainland. Trinidadian RABV sequences were confirmed as bat variant and clustered with Desmodus rotundus (vampire bat) related sequences. They fell into two largely temporally defined lineages designated Trinidad I and II. The Trinidad I lineage which included sequences from 1997–2000 (all but two of which were from the northeast of the island) was most closely related to RABV from Ecuador (2005, 2007), French Guiana (1990) and Venezuela (1993, 1994). Trinidad II comprised sequences from the southwest of the island, which clustered into two groups: Trinidad IIa, which included one sequence each from 2000 and 2007, and Trinidad IIb including all 2010 sequences. The Trinidad II sequences were most closely related to sequences from Brazil (1999, 2004) and Uruguay (2007, 2008). Phylogeographic analyses support three separate RABV introductions from the mainland from which each of the three Trinidadian lineages arose. The estimated dates for the introductions and subsequent lineage expansions suggest periods of in situ evolution within Trinidad following each introduction. These data also indicate co-circulation of Trinidad lineage I and IIa during 2000. In light of these findings and the likely vampire bat origin of Trinidadian RABV, further studies should be conducted to investigate the relationship between RABV spatiotemporal dynamics and vampire bat population ecology, in particular any movement between the mainland and Trinidad.
Author Summary
The Caribbean island of Trinidad experiences periodic rabies virus (RABV) outbreaks within the livestock population. In this study, we inferred the evolutionary history of RABV in the Americas and reconstructed past patterns of RABV geographic spread in order to address the question of whether Trinidadian outbreaks arise from locally maintained RABV or are the result of virus importation from the mainland (presumably via infected bats). Our results provide statistical support for three importation events that gave rise to each of three Trinidadian vampire bat-associated lineages identified in the study. They also indicate limited periods of in situ evolution within Trinidad following each of these introductions. The results also support Mexico and Brazil as major epicenters for the expansion of RABV associated with vampire bats throughout the Americas and consequently to Trinidad. The findings of our study are particularly relevant to local RABV monitoring and control. In addition to justifying vampire bats as the main target for active rabies surveillance and control activities in Trinidad, they suggest that more intense surveillance of regions that lie close to the mainland may be warranted. Finally, in light of these findings, further studies should be conducted to investigate the relationship between RABV spatiotemporal dynamics and vampire bat population ecology.
PMCID: PMC3749974  PMID: 23991230
2.  Spatio-temporal Analysis of the Genetic Diversity of Arctic Rabies Viruses and Their Reservoir Hosts in Greenland 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(7):e0004779.
There has been limited knowledge on spatio-temporal epidemiology of zoonotic arctic fox rabies among countries bordering the Arctic, in particular Greenland. Previous molecular epidemiological studies have suggested the occurrence of one particular arctic rabies virus (RABV) lineage (arctic-3), but have been limited by a low number of available samples preventing in-depth high resolution phylogenetic analysis of RABVs at that time. However, an improved knowledge of the evolution, at a molecular level, of the circulating RABVs and a better understanding of the historical perspective of the disease in Greenland is necessary for better direct control measures on the island. These issues have been addressed by investigating the spatio-temporal genetic diversity of arctic RABVs and their reservoir host, the arctic fox, in Greenland using both full and partial genome sequences. Using a unique set of 79 arctic RABV full genome sequences from Greenland, Canada, USA (Alaska) and Russia obtained between 1977 and 2014, a description of the historic context in relation to the genetic diversity of currently circulating RABV in Greenland and neighboring Canadian Northern territories has been provided. The phylogenetic analysis confirmed delineation into four major arctic RABV lineages (arctic 1–4) with viruses from Greenland exclusively grouping into the circumpolar arctic-3 lineage. High resolution analysis enabled distinction of seven geographically distinct subclades (3.I – 3.VII) with two subclades containing viruses from both Greenland and Canada. By combining analysis of full length RABV genome sequences and host derived sequences encoding mitochondrial proteins obtained simultaneously from brain tissues of 49 arctic foxes, the interaction of viruses and their hosts was explored in detail. Such an approach can serve as a blueprint for analysis of infectious disease dynamics and virus-host interdependencies. The results showed a fine-scale spatial population structure in Greenland arctic foxes based on mitochondrial sequences, but provided no evidence for independent isolated evolutionary development of RABV in different arctic fox lineages. These data are invaluable to support future initiatives for arctic fox rabies control and elimination in Greenland.
Author Summary
Next to dog-mediated rabies, wildlife rabies continues to pose a public health problem, particularly in the northern hemisphere. Control of this zoonosis at the animal source has been proven the most efficient route to reduction of human rabies burden. Successful elimination of red fox-mediated rabies in Western Europe and parts of North America has demonstrated the viability of wildlife rabies control strategies. In some regions, the epidemiology of wildlife rabies is well understood; this is not the case for arctic rabies, particularly in Greenland. Previous molecular epidemiological studies demonstrated the occurrence of one particular arctic rabies virus (RABV) lineage (arctic-3) but were limited by low sample numbers and limited sequence length so as to preclude generation of high resolution phylogenetic analysis. Here, a unique set comprised of 79 complete genome sequences of RABVs from Greenland, Canada, USA (Alaska) and Russia collected over the past four decades was analysed. The use of next generation sequencing (NGS) allowed simultaneous determination of host derived sequences encoding mitochondrial proteins from the same brain tissue of 49 arctic foxes. These sequence data combined with geographical and temporal information permit the study of the genetic diversity and evolution of circulating RABVs in Greenland against the background of reservoir host genetics. The results reveal the existence of a single arctic RABV lineage (arctic-3) in Greenland, which has evolved into multiple distinct variants. These analyses provide an improved knowledge of the evolution of the circulating viruses at the molecular level and a better understanding of the historical perspective of the disease in Greenland compared to other parts of the Arctic. This knowledge will support policy on rabies control in mammalian wildlife reservoirs.
PMCID: PMC4961414  PMID: 27459154
3.  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
4.  Phylodynamics and Human-Mediated Dispersal of a Zoonotic Virus 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(10):e1001166.
Understanding the role of humans in the dispersal of predominately animal pathogens is essential for their control. We used newly developed Bayesian phylogeographic methods to unravel the dynamics and determinants of the spread of dog rabies virus (RABV) in North Africa. Each of the countries studied exhibited largely disconnected spatial dynamics with major geo-political boundaries acting as barriers to gene flow. Road distances proved to be better predictors of the movement of dog RABV than accessibility or raw geographical distance, with occasional long distance and rapid spread within each of these countries. Using simulations that bridge phylodynamics and spatial epidemiology, we demonstrate that the contemporary viral distribution extends beyond that expected for RABV transmission in African dog populations. These results are strongly supportive of human-mediated dispersal, and demonstrate how an integrated phylogeographic approach will turn viral genetic data into a powerful asset for characterizing, predicting, and potentially controlling the spatial spread of pathogens.
Author Summary
At least 15 million doses of anti-rabies post-exposure prophylaxis are administered annually worldwide, and an estimated 55,000 people die of rabies every year. Over 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries, predominantly in Asia and in Africa where rabies is endemic in domestic dogs. Despite the global health burden due to rabies, little is known about the patterns of the spread of dog rabies in these endemic regions. We used recently developed Bayesian analytical methods to unravel the dynamics and determinants of the spatial diffusion of dog rabies viruses in North Africa based on viral genetic data. Our analysis reveals a combination of restricted spread across administrative borders, the occasional long-distance movement of rabies viruses, and a strong fit between spatial spread of the virus and road distances between localities. Together, these data indicate that by transporting dogs, humans have played a key role in the dispersal of a major animal pathogen. Our studies therefore provide essential new information on the transmission dynamics of rabies in Africa, and in doing so will greatly assist in future intervention strategies.
PMCID: PMC2965766  PMID: 21060816
5.  Bat Rabies in Guatemala 
Rabies in bats is considered enzootic throughout the New World, but few comparative data are available for most countries in the region. As part of a larger pathogen detection program, enhanced bat rabies surveillance was conducted in Guatemala, between 2009 and 2011. A total of 672 bats of 31 species were sampled and tested for rabies. The prevalence of rabies virus (RABV) detection among all collected bats was low (0.3%). Viral antigens were detected and infectious virus was isolated from the brains of two common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus). RABV was also isolated from oral swabs, lungs and kidneys of both bats, whereas viral RNA was detected in all of the tissues examined by hemi-nested RT-PCR except for the liver of one bat. Sequencing of the nucleoprotein gene showed that both viruses were 100% identical, whereas sequencing of the glycoprotein gene revealed one non-synonymous substitution (302T,S). The two vampire bat RABV isolates in this study were phylogenetically related to viruses associated with vampire bats in the eastern states of Mexico and El Salvador. Additionally, 7% of sera collected from 398 bats demonstrated RABV neutralizing antibody. The proportion of seropositive bats varied significantly across trophic guilds, suggestive of complex intraspecific compartmentalization of RABV perpetuation.
Author Summary
In this study we provide results of the first active and extensive surveillance effort for rabies virus (RABV) circulation among bats in Guatemala. The survey included multiple geographic areas and multiple species of bats, to assess the broader public and veterinary health risks associated with rabies in bats in Guatemala. RABV was isolated from vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) collected in two different locations in Guatemala. Sequencing of the isolates revealed a closer relationship to Mexican and Central American vampire bat isolates than to South American isolates. The detection of RABV neutralizing antibodies in 11 species, including insectivorous, frugivorous, and sanguivorous bats, demonstrates viral circulation in both hematophagous and non-hematophagous bat species in Guatemala. The presence of bat RABV in rural communities requires new strategies for public health education regarding contact with bats, improved laboratory-based surveillance of animals associated with human exposures, and novel techniques for modern rabies prevention and control. Additionally, healthcare practitioners should emphasize the collection of a detailed medical history, including questions regarding bat exposure, for patients presenting with clinical syndromes compatible with rabies or any clinically diagnosed progressive encephalitis.
PMCID: PMC4117473  PMID: 25080103
6.  Recent Emergence and Spread of an Arctic-Related Phylogenetic Lineage of Rabies Virus in Nepal 
Rabies is a zoonotic disease that is endemic in many parts of the developing world, especially in Africa and Asia. However its epidemiology remains largely unappreciated in much of these regions, such as in Nepal, where limited information is available about the spatiotemporal dynamics of the main etiological agent, the rabies virus (RABV). In this study, we describe for the first time the phylogenetic diversity and evolution of RABV circulating in Nepal, as well as their geographical relationships within the broader region. A total of 24 new isolates obtained from Nepal and collected from 2003 to 2011 were full-length sequenced for both the nucleoprotein and the glycoprotein genes, and analysed using neighbour-joining and maximum-likelihood phylogenetic methods with representative viruses from all over the world, including new related RABV strains from neighbouring or more distant countries (Afghanistan, Greenland, Iran, Russia and USA). Despite Nepal's limited land surface and its particular geographical position within the Indian subcontinent, our study revealed the presence of a surprising wide genetic diversity of RABV, with the co-existence of three different phylogenetic groups: an Indian subcontinent clade and two different Arctic-like sub-clades within the Arctic-related clade. This observation suggests at least two independent episodes of rabies introduction from neighbouring countries. In addition, specific phylogenetic and temporal evolution analysis of viruses within the Arctic-related clade has identified a new recently emerged RABV lineage we named as the Arctic-like 3 (AL-3) sub-clade that is already widely spread in Nepal.
Author Summary
Rabies is endemic in most Asian countries and represents a serious public health issue, with an estimated 31,000 people dying each year of this disease. The majority of human cases are transmitted by domestic dogs, which act as the principal reservoir host and vector. However, molecular epidemiology and evolutionary dynamics of the main etiological agent, the rabies virus (RABV), remains largely unappreciated in some regions such as in Nepal. Based on a subset of 24 new Nepalese isolates collected from 2003 to 2011 and representative RABV strains at a global scale, phylogenetic analysis based on the complete nucleoprotein and glycoprotein genes sequences revealed the presence of a surprising wide genetic diversity of RABV circulating in this country. The presence of three different co-existing phylogenetic groups was identified: an Indian subcontinent clade and two different Arctic-like sub-clades within the Arctic-related clade, namely Arctic-like (AL)-1, lineage a (AL-1a), and AL-3. Among these clusters, the AL-3 sub-clade appears as the major Nepalese phylogroup which emerged relatively recently in this country, within the last 30 years. These data has raised some concerns about the exchange of RABV between different countries, and provided key elements for implementation of effective control measures of rabies in Nepal.
PMCID: PMC3836727  PMID: 24278494
7.  Validation of a Rapid Rabies Diagnostic Tool for Field Surveillance in Developing Countries 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(10):e0005010.
One root cause of the neglect of rabies is the lack of adequate diagnostic tests in the context of low income countries. A rapid, performance friendly and low cost method to detect rabies virus (RABV) in brain samples will contribute positively to surveillance and consequently to accurate data reporting, which is presently missing in the majority of rabies endemic countries.
Methodology/Principal findings
We evaluated a rapid immunodiagnostic test (RIDT) in comparison with the standard fluorescent antibody test (FAT) and confirmed the detection of the viral RNA by real time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Our analysis is a multicentre approach to validate the performance of the RIDT in both a field laboratory (N’Djamena, Chad) and an international reference laboratory (Institut Pasteur, Paris, France). In the field laboratory, 48 samples from dogs were tested and in the reference laboratory setting, a total of 73 samples was tested, representing a wide diversity of RABV in terms of animal species tested (13 different species), geographical origin of isolates with special emphasis on Africa, and different phylogenetic clades. Under reference laboratory conditions, specificity was 93.3% and sensitivity was 95.3% compared to the gold standard FAT test. Under field laboratory conditions, the RIDT yielded a higher reliability than the FAT test particularly on fresh and decomposed samples. Viral RNA was later extracted directly from the test filter paper and further used successfully for sequencing and genotyping.
The RIDT shows excellent performance qualities both in regard to user friendliness and reliability of the result. In addition, the test cassettes can be used as a vehicle to ship viral RNA to reference laboratories for further laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis and for epidemiological investigations using nucleotide sequencing. The potential for satisfactory use in remote locations is therefore very high to improve the global knowledge of rabies epidemiology. However, we suggest some changes to the protocol, as well as careful further validation, before promotion and wider use.
Author Summary
The high fatality and burden of rabies stands in contrast to the very low performance of laboratory-based surveillance in resource-challenged countries. The absence of reliable human and animal rabies incidence data ultimately result in neglect of disease prevention and control and the perpetuation of RABV transmission despite the existence of powerful management tools. Rapid, easy to perform rabies diagnostic tests that do not require expensive equipment or special storage conditions, which can be reliably performed by trained ordinary veterinary professionals, are needed urgently for use in low income countries. Such novel methods will help to accurately assess the global rabies burden and are necessary to monitor rabies control and elimination. The present study evaluates the performance and reliability of a rapid, easy to use rabies diagnostic tool. Overall, the validated test was in high accordance with the standard reference method for the detection of RABV by immunofluorescence microscopy and showed even higher reliability when applied in resource poor laboratory conditions. The obtained results support the high potential for the use of this test in the field but suggest a change of the original technical protocol and a need for wider validation.
PMCID: PMC5051951  PMID: 27706156
8.  The Phylogeography of Rabies in Grenada, West Indies, and Implications for Control 
In Grenada, West Indies, rabies is endemic, and is thought to be maintained in a wildlife host, the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) with occasional spillover into other hosts. Therefore, the present study was undertaken to improve understanding of rabies epidemiology in Grenada and to inform rabies control policy. Mongooses were trapped island-wide between April 2011 and March 2013 and examined for the presence of Rabies virus (RABV) antigen using the direct fluorescent antibody test (dFAT) and PCR, and for serum neutralizing antibodies (SNA) using the fluorescent antibody virus neutralization test (FAVN). An additional cohort of brain samples from clinical rabies suspects submitted between April 2011 and March 2014 were also investigated for the presence of virus. Two of the 171 (1.7%) live-trapped mongooses were RABV positive by FAT and PCR, and 20 (11.7%) had SNAs. Rabies was diagnosed in 31 of the submitted animals with suspicious clinical signs: 16 mongooses, 12 dogs, 2 cats and 1 goat. Our investigation has revealed that rabies infection spread from the northeast to the southwest of Grenada within the study period. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the viruses from Grenada formed a monophyletic clade within the cosmopolitan lineage with a common ancestor predicted to have occurred recently (6–23 years ago), and are distinct from those found in Cuba and Puerto Rico, where mongoose rabies is also endemic. These data suggest that it is likely that this specific strain of RABV was imported from European regions rather than the Americas. These data contribute essential information for any potential rabies control program in Grenada and demonstrate the importance of a sound evidence base for planning interventions.
Author Summary
Rabies, a fatal disease of animals and humans has been endemic in Grenada, West Indies, since the early 1900s. The small Indian mongoose, an introduced animal, is the most likely rabies reservoir, with spillover into domestic animals and humans. To control rabies, large numbers of mongooses were killed in the 1960s/1970s, but this effort did not alter long-term rabies dynamics. Vaccination of dogs, cats and livestock is efficient in protecting these animals, yet is not regularly undertaken. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in humans is routinely done and no human has died of rabies in Grenada since 1970. However, the threat of rabies and potential to adversely affect the tourism industry, are a burden on the Grenadian government and public. This study has re-evaluated the role of the mongoose in the maintenance of rabies in Grenada, and for the first time, the rabies virus circulating in Grenada has been described. Grenada offers optimal conditions for an oral rabies vaccination (ORV) program, being an island with strict live animal import controls, and a single wildlife rabies reservoir. Although further work is needed before an ORV campaign could be implemented, elimination of rabies from Grenada seems a realistic goal.
PMCID: PMC4199513  PMID: 25330178
9.  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
10.  Genetic and evolutionary characterization of RABVs from China using the phosphoprotein gene 
Virology Journal  2013;10:14.
While the function of the phosphoprotein (P) gene of the rabies virus (RABV) has been well studied in laboratory adapted RABVs, the genetic diversity and evolution characteristics of the P gene of street RABVs remain unclear. The objective of the present study was to investigate the mutation and evolution of P genes in Chinese street RABVs.
The P gene of 77 RABVs from brain samples of dogs and wild animals collected in eight Chinese provinces through 2003 to 2008 were sequenced. The open reading frame (ORF) of the P genes was 894 nucleotides (nt) in length, with 85-99% (80-89%) amino acid (nucleotide) identity compared with the laboratory RABVs and vaccine strains. Phylogenetic analysis based on the P gene revealed that Chinese RABVs strains could be divided into two distinct clades, and several RABV variants were found to co circulating in the same province. Two conserved (CD1, 2) and two variable (VD1, 2) domains were identified by comparing the deduced primary sequences of the encoded P proteins. Two sequence motifs, one believed to confer binding to the cytoplasmic dynein light chain LC8 and a lysine-rich sequence were conserved throughout the Chinese RABVs. In contrast, the isolates exhibited lower conservation of one phosphate acceptor and one internal translation initiation site identified in the P protein of the rabies challenge virus standard (CVS) strain. Bayesian coalescent analysis showed that the P gene in Chinese RABVs have a substitution rate (3.305x10-4 substitutions per site per year) and evolution history (592 years ago) similar to values for the glycoprotein (G) and nucleoprotein (N) reported previously.
Several substitutions were found in the P gene of Chinese RABVs strains compared to the laboratory adapted and vaccine strains, whether these variations could affect the biological characteristics of Chinese RABVs need to be further investigated. The substitution rate and evolution history of P gene is similar to G and N gene, combine the topology of phylogenetic tree based on the P gene is similar to the G and N gene trees, indicate that the P, G and N genes are equally valid for examining the phylogenetics of RABVs.
PMCID: PMC3548735  PMID: 23294868
Rabies virus; Phosphoprotein gene; Genetic diversity; Molecular evolution
11.  Phylogeography of the current rabies viruses in Indonesia 
Journal of Veterinary Science  2015;16(4):459-466.
Rabies is a major fatal zoonotic disease in Indonesia. This study was conducted to determine the recent dynamics of rabies virus (RABV) in various areas and animal species throughout Indonesia. A total of 27 brain samples collected from rabid animals of various species in Bali, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Java, and Flores in 2008 to 2010 were investigated. The cDNA of the nucleoprotein gene from each sample was generated and amplified by one-step reverse transcription-PCR, after which the products were sequenced and analyzed. The symmetric substitution model of a Bayesian stochastic search variable selection extension of the discrete phylogeographic model of the social network was applied in BEAST ver. 1.7.5 software. The spatial dispersal was visualized in Cartographica using Spatial Phylogenetic Reconstruction of Evolutionary Dynamics. We demonstrated inter-island introduction and reintroduction, and dog was found to be the only source of infection of other animals. Ancestors of Indonesian RABVs originated in Java and its descendants were transmitted to Kalimantan, then further to Sumatra, Flores, and Bali. The Flores descendent was subsequently transmitted to Sulawesi and back to Kalimantan. The viruses found in various animal species were transmitted by the dog.
PMCID: PMC4701738  PMID: 25643792
Indonesia; phylogeography; rabies virus
12.  Large-Scale Phylogenomic Analysis Reveals the Complex Evolutionary History of Rabies Virus in Multiple Carnivore Hosts 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(12):e1006041.
The natural evolution of rabies virus (RABV) provides a potent example of multiple host shifts and an important opportunity to determine the mechanisms that underpin viral emergence. Using 321 genome sequences spanning an unprecedented diversity of RABV, we compared evolutionary rates and selection pressures in viruses sampled from multiple primary host shifts that occurred on various continents. Two major phylogenetic groups, bat-related RABV and dog-related RABV, experiencing markedly different evolutionary dynamics were identified. While no correlation between time and genetic divergence was found in bat-related RABV, the evolution of dog-related RABV followed a generally clock-like structure, although with a relatively low evolutionary rate. Subsequent molecular clock dating indicated that dog-related RABV likely underwent a rapid global spread following the intensification of intercontinental trade starting in the 15th century. Strikingly, although dog RABV has jumped to various wildlife species from the order Carnivora, we found no clear evidence that these host-jumping events involved adaptive evolution, with RABV instead characterized by strong purifying selection, suggesting that ecological processes also play an important role in shaping patterns of emergence. However, specific amino acid changes were associated with the parallel emergence of RABV in ferret-badgers in Asia, and some host shifts were associated with increases in evolutionary rate, particularly in the ferret-badger and mongoose, implying that changes in host species can have important impacts on evolutionary dynamics.
Author Summary
Zoonoses account for most recently emerged infectious diseases of humans, although little is known about the evolutionary mechanisms involved in cross-species virus transmission. Understanding the evolutionary patterns and processes that underpin such cross-species transmission is of importance for predicting the spread of zoonotic infections, and hence to their ultimate control. We present a large-scale and detailed reconstruction of the evolutionary history of rabies virus (RABV) in domestic and wildlife animal species. RABV is of particular interest as it is capable of infecting many mammals but, paradoxically, is only maintained in distinct epidemiological cycles associated with animal species from the orders Carnivora and Chiroptera. We show that bat-related RABV and dog-related RABV have experienced very different evolutionary dynamics, and that host jumps are sometimes characterized by significant increases in evolutionary rate. Among Carnivora, the association between RABV and particular host species most likely arose from a combination of the historical human-mediated spread of the virus and jumps into new primary host species. In addition, we show that changes in host species are associated with multiple evolutionary pathways including the occurrence of host-specific parallel evolution. Overall, our data indicate that the establishment of dog-related RABV in new carnivore hosts may only require subtle adaptive evolution.
PMCID: PMC5158080  PMID: 27977811
13.  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
14.  Rabies Virus Infection Induces Type I Interferon Production in an IPS-1 Dependent Manner While Dendritic Cell Activation Relies on IFNAR Signaling 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(7):e1001016.
As with many viruses, rabies virus (RABV) infection induces type I interferon (IFN) production within the infected host cells. However, RABV has evolved mechanisms by which to inhibit IFN production in order to sustain infection. Here we show that RABV infection of dendritic cells (DC) induces potent type I IFN production and DC activation. Although DCs are infected by RABV, the viral replication is highly suppressed in DCs, rendering the infection non-productive. We exploited this finding in bone marrow derived DCs (BMDC) in order to differentiate which pattern recognition receptor(s) (PRR) is responsible for inducing type I IFN following infection with RABV. Our results indicate that BMDC activation and type I IFN production following a RABV infection is independent of TLR signaling. However, IPS-1 is essential for both BMDC activation and IFN production. Interestingly, we see that the BMDC activation is primarily due to signaling through the IFNAR and only marginally induced by the initial infection. To further identify the receptor recognizing RABV infection, we next analyzed BMDC from Mda-5−/− and RIG-I−/− mice. In the absence of either receptor, there is a significant decrease in BMDC activation at 12h post infection. However, only RIG-I−/− cells exhibit a delay in type I IFN production. In order to determine the role that IPS-1 plays in vivo, we infected mice with pathogenic RABV. We see that IPS-1−/− mice are more susceptible to infection than IPS-1+/+ mice and have a significantly increased incident of limb paralysis.
Author Summary
Rabies virus (RABV) is a neurotropic RNA virus responsible for the deaths of the at least 40,000 to 70,000 individuals globally each year. However, the innate immune response induced by both wildtype and vaccine strains of RABV is not well understood. In this study, we assessed the pattern recognition receptors involved in the host immune response to RABV in bone marrow derived dendritic cells (DC). Our studies revealed that Toll like receptor (TLR) signaling is not required to induce innate responses to RABV. On the other hand, we see that IPS-1, the adaptor protein for RIG-I like receptor (RLR) signaling, is essential for induction of innate immune responses. Furthermore, we found that RIG-I and Mda-5, both RLRs, are able to induce DC activation and type I interferon production. This finding is significant as we can target unused pattern recognition receptors with recombinant RABV vaccine strains to elicit a varied, and potentially protective, immune response. Lastly, we show that IPS-1 plays an important role in mediating the pathogenicity of RABV and preventing RABV associated paralysis. Overall, this study illustrates that RLRs are essential for recognition of RABV infection and that the subsequent host cell signaling is required to prevent disease.
PMCID: PMC2908622  PMID: 20661430
15.  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
16.  Investigating the Role for IL-21 in Rabies Virus Vaccine-induced Immunity 
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3597479  PMID: 23516660
17.  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
18.  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
19.  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
20.  Complex Epidemiology of a Zoonotic Disease in a Culturally Diverse Region: Phylogeography of Rabies Virus in the Middle East 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(3):e0003569.
The Middle East is a culturally and politically diverse region at the gateway between Europe, Africa and Asia. Spatial dynamics of the fatal zoonotic disease rabies among countries of the Middle East and surrounding regions is poorly understood. An improved understanding of virus distribution is necessary to direct control methods. Previous studies have suggested regular trans-boundary movement, but have been unable to infer direction. Here we address these issues, by investigating the evolution of 183 rabies virus isolates collected from over 20 countries between 1972 and 2014. We have undertaken a discrete phylogeographic analysis on a subset of 139 samples to infer where and when movements of rabies have occurred. We provide evidence for four genetically distinct clades with separate origins currently circulating in the Middle East and surrounding countries. Introductions of these viruses have been followed by regular and multidirectional trans-boundary movements in some parts of the region, but relative isolation in others. There is evidence for minimal regular incursion of rabies from Central and Eastern Asia. These data support current initiatives for regional collaboration that are essential for rabies elimination.
Author Summary
Despite being one of the oldest recognised infectious diseases, rabies continues to cause thousands of preventable human deaths per year. As a zoonotic disease, control of infection in the reservoir has been proven the most efficient route to reduction of human cases. In some regions, the epidemiology is well understood, with either dogs or wildlife known to be the primary reservoir and with little or no movement from, or into other regions. This is not the case in the Middle East, where rabies is underreported in animals and humans, there is little laboratory confirmation of infection, and the extent of rabies spread from country to country is not known. Previous studies have demonstrated trans-boundary movement of rabies but have been limited by a low number of available samples from some countries, and the direction of spread has been difficult to estimate. Here we use rabies virus partial genome sequences of 183 viruses from over 20 countries, combined with geographical and temporal information, to reconstruct the evolution of rabies viruses circulating in the Middle East. The results reveal an apparent barrier to spread between some regions but regular movement between others. These analyses will support policy on rabies control by indicating the relative importance of local control and animal movement restrictions when allocating resources.
PMCID: PMC4374968  PMID: 25811659
21.  Rabies in Iraq: Trends in Human Cases 2001–2010 and Characterisation of Animal Rabies Strains from Baghdad 
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3585036  PMID: 23469303
22.  Laboratory data of dog rabies in southern Cameroon from 2010 to 2013 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7:905.
Dog rabies is endemic in most African countries and the risk of human rabies is estimated to be high in Cameroon according to WHO estimations in 2010. This study aimed to describe the circulation rabies virus (RABV) among dogs in the southern regions of Cameroon from 2010 to 2013 in a context, where mass vaccination campaigns are launched annually in order to control rabies in domestic animals including dogs and cats.
From 2010 to 2013, 93 animal specimens (dogs: 91, monkey: 1, pig: 1) originating from the southern regions of Cameroon were collected and tested for rabies virus at the Centre Pasteur of Cameroon by fluorescent antibody test (FAT) and virus isolation. Of the total dog specimens, 69.2% (63/91) originated from the central part of the southern regions and 50.5% (46/91) were from the capital city Yaounde. Overall, 74.2% (66/89) of dogs’ specimens that could be tested were found rabies-positive while specimens from the monkey and pig were tested negative. Overall, dog rabies was repeatedly detected in the southern regions of Cameroon especially in the nation capital, Yaounde even though low specimen submission and geographic bias did not permit major conclusions about its actual rate, geographical and over time distribution.
The results of this study indicate that rabies is endemic in the dog population which is of public health concern. Therefore, coordinated rabies control program should be conducted to reduce the rabies incidence in dogs and in humans. In addition, proper rabies surveillance program including reporting system should be established to monitor the success of the control program in Cameroon.
PMCID: PMC4295264  PMID: 25495597
Rabies; Dogs; Cameroon; Surveillance
23.  Bayesian Phylogeography Finds Its Roots 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(9):e1000520.
As a key factor in endemic and epidemic dynamics, the geographical distribution of viruses has been frequently interpreted in the light of their genetic histories. Unfortunately, inference of historical dispersal or migration patterns of viruses has mainly been restricted to model-free heuristic approaches that provide little insight into the temporal setting of the spatial dynamics. The introduction of probabilistic models of evolution, however, offers unique opportunities to engage in this statistical endeavor. Here we introduce a Bayesian framework for inference, visualization and hypothesis testing of phylogeographic history. By implementing character mapping in a Bayesian software that samples time-scaled phylogenies, we enable the reconstruction of timed viral dispersal patterns while accommodating phylogenetic uncertainty. Standard Markov model inference is extended with a stochastic search variable selection procedure that identifies the parsimonious descriptions of the diffusion process. In addition, we propose priors that can incorporate geographical sampling distributions or characterize alternative hypotheses about the spatial dynamics. To visualize the spatial and temporal information, we summarize inferences using virtual globe software. We describe how Bayesian phylogeography compares with previous parsimony analysis in the investigation of the influenza A H5N1 origin and H5N1 epidemiological linkage among sampling localities. Analysis of rabies in West African dog populations reveals how virus diffusion may enable endemic maintenance through continuous epidemic cycles. From these analyses, we conclude that our phylogeographic framework will make an important asset in molecular epidemiology that can be easily generalized to infer biogeogeography from genetic data for many organisms.
Author Summary
Spreading in time and space, rapidly evolving viruses can accumulate a considerable amount of genetic variation. As a consequence, viral genomes become valuable resources to reconstruct the spatial and temporal processes that are shaping epidemic or endemic dynamics. In molecular epidemiology, spatial inference is often limited to the interpretation of evolutionary histories with respect to the sampling locations of the pathogens. To test hypotheses about the spatial diffusion patterns of viruses, analytical techniques are required that enable us to reconstruct how viruses migrated in the past. Here, we develop a model to infer diffusion processes among discrete locations in timed evolutionary histories in a statistically efficient fashion. Applications to Avian Influenza A H5N1 and Rabies virus in Central and West African dogs demonstrate several advantages of simultaneously inferring spatial and temporal processes from gene sequences.
PMCID: PMC2740835  PMID: 19779555
24.  Spatial Temporal Dynamics and Molecular Evolution of Re-Emerging Rabies Virus in Taiwan 
Taiwan has been recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health as rabies-free since 1961. Surprisingly, rabies virus (RABV) was identified in a dead Formosan ferret badger in July 2013. Later, more infected ferret badgers were reported from different geographic regions of Taiwan. In order to know its evolutionary history and spatial temporal dynamics of this virus, phylogeny was reconstructed by maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods based on the full-length of glycoprotein (G), matrix protein (M), and nucleoprotein (N) genes. The evolutionary rates and phylogeographic were determined using Beast and SPREAD software. Phylogenetic trees showed a monophyletic group containing all of RABV isolates from Taiwan and it further separated into three sub-groups. The estimated nucleotide substitution rates of G, M, and N genes were between 2.49 × 10−4–4.75 × 10−4 substitutions/site/year, and the mean ratio of dN/dS was significantly low. The time of the most recent common ancestor was estimated around 75, 89, and 170 years, respectively. Phylogeographic analysis suggested the origin of the epidemic could be in Eastern Taiwan, then the Formosan ferret badger moved across the Central Range of Taiwan to western regions and separated into two branches. In this study, we illustrated the evolution history and phylogeographic of RABV in Formosan ferret badgers.
PMCID: PMC4813248  PMID: 26999115
rabies virus; phylogeographic; Formosan ferret badgers
25.  Diagnosis and molecular characterization of rabies virus from a buffalo in China: a case report 
Virology Journal  2011;8:101.
Rabies virus (RABV) can infect many different species of warm-blooded animals. Glycoprotein G plays a key role in viral pathogenicity and neurotropism, and includes antigenic domains that are responsible for membrane fusion and host cell receptor recognition.
Case presentation
A case of buffalo rabies in China was diagnosed by direct fluorescent antibody test, G gene reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, and RABV mouse inoculation test. Molecular characterization of the RABV was performed using DNA sequencing, phylogenetic analysis and amino acid sequence comparison based on the G gene from different species of animals.
The results confirmed that the buffalo with suspected rabies was infected by RABV, which was genetically closely related to HNC (FJ602451) that was isolated from cattle in China in 2007. Comparison of the G gene among different species of animal showed that there were almost no amino acid changes among RABVs isolated from the same species of animals that distributed in a near region. However, there were many changes among RABVs that were isolated from different species of animal, or the same species from different geographic regions. This is believed to be the first case report of buffalo rabies in China, and the results may provide further information to understand the mechanism by which RABV breaks through the species barrier.
PMCID: PMC3061937  PMID: 21375773

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