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1.  Enzootic and Epizootic Rabies Associated with Vampire Bats, Peru 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(9):1463-1469.
During the past decade, incidence of human infection with rabies virus (RABV) spread by the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) increased considerably in South America, especially in remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, where these bats commonly feed on humans. To better understand the epizootiology of rabies associated with vampire bats, we used complete sequences of the nucleoprotein gene to infer phylogenetic relationships among 157 RABV isolates collected from humans, domestic animals, and wildlife, including bats, in Peru during 2002–2007. This analysis revealed distinct geographic structuring that indicates that RABVs spread gradually and involve different vampire bat subpopulations with different transmission cycles. Three putative new RABV lineages were found in 3 non–vampire bat species that may represent new virus reservoirs. Detection of novel RABV variants and accurate identification of reservoir hosts are critically important for the prevention and control of potential virus transmission, especially to humans.
PMCID: PMC3810916
rabies; molecular epidemiology; bats; Peru; viruses; zoonoses; vampire bats
2.  Laboratory Surveillance of Rabies in Humans, Domestic Animals, and Bats in Madagascar from 2005 to 2010 
Background. Rabies virus (RABV) has circulated in Madagascar at least since the 19th century. Objectives. To assess the circulation of lyssavirus in the island from 2005 to 2010. Materials and Methods. Animal (including bats) and human samples were tested for RABV and other lyssavirus using antigen, ribonucleic acid (RNA), and antibodies detection and virus isolation. Results. Half of the 437 domestic or tame wild terrestrial mammal brains tested were found RABV antigen positive, including 54% of the 341 dogs tested. This percentage ranged from 26% to 75% across the period. Nine of the 10 suspected human cases tested were laboratory confirmed. RABV circulation was confirmed in 34 of the 38 districts sampled. No lyssavirus RNA was detected in 1983 bats specimens. Nevertheless, antibodies against Lagos bat virus were detected in the sera of 12 among 50 Eidolon dupreanum specimens sampled. Conclusion. More than a century after the introduction of the vaccine, rabies still remains endemic in Madagascar.
PMCID: PMC3170745  PMID: 21991442
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  Presence of Virus Neutralizing Antibodies in Cerebral Spinal Fluid Correlates with Non-Lethal Rabies in Dogs 
Rabies is traditionally considered a uniformly fatal disease after onset of clinical manifestations. However, increasing evidence indicates that non-lethal infection as well as recovery from flaccid paralysis and encephalitis occurs in laboratory animals as well as humans.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Non-lethal rabies infection in dogs experimentally infected with wild type dog rabies virus (RABV, wt DRV-Mexico) correlates with the presence of high level of virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and mild immune cell accumulation in the central nervous system (CNS). By contrast, dogs that succumbed to rabies showed only little or no VNA in the serum or in the CSF and severe inflammation in the CNS. Dogs vaccinated with a rabies vaccine showed no clinical signs of rabies and survived challenge with a lethal dose of wild-type DRV. VNA was detected in the serum, but not in the CSF of immunized dogs. Thus the presence of VNA is critical for inhibiting virus spread within the CNS and eventually clearing the virus from the CNS.
Non-lethal infection with wt RABV correlates with the presence of VNA in the CNS. Therefore production of VNA within the CNS or invasion of VNA from the periphery into the CNS via compromised blood-brain barrier is important for clearing the virus infection from CNS, thereby preventing an otherwise lethal rabies virus infection.
Author Summary
Inexorable lethality is still commonly attributed to rabies infection, although there is increasing evidence for non-lethal infection and even recovery from clinical rabies in various animal species and humans. This paper reports non-lethal infection in dogs. The striking difference between dogs that survived a wt RABV infection and dogs that succumbed to the infection is that the surviving dogs showed high level of VNA in the serum and in the CSF, as well as mild immune cell accumulation in the CNS, whereas dogs that succumbed to disease showed little or no VNA in the serum or in the CSF and developed severe CNS inflammation. Considering the role of VNA in clearing the virus from the CNS, production of VNA within the CNS or infiltration of VNA from the periphery into the CNS across the blood-brain barrier appears to be important for clearing the virus from CNS thereby preventing a lethal rabies infection.
PMCID: PMC3777866  PMID: 24069466
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Rabies in South Indian Cows: An evidence of Sri Lankan Rabies virus Variant Infection Based on the Analysis of Partial Nucleoprotein Gene 
Rabies is a highly fatal non-suppurative encephalomyelitis, caused by the Rabies virus. Dogs are the major reservoir of rabies in India and are the source of infection to other domestic animals. In this report, laboratory investigation and molecular characterization of isolates from two cows with paralytic rabies is described. Necropsy brain samples from the two cows were tested for the presence of rabies antigen using a fluorescent antibody test and the results were confirmed using RT-PCR. Rabies virus was successfully isolated from both the brain samples in a murine neuroblastoma cell line. The phylogenetic analysis of partial nucleoprotein gene sequences of these isolates showed them to be of a variant of Rabies virus which is closely related to the Sri Lankan Rabies virus lineage as previously reported. In addition, partial nucleoprotein genes of 19 more Rabies virus isolates from southern India were sequenced and of these 11 isolates were found to be closely related to the Sri Lankan lineage. The deduced amino acid sequences of the partial nucleoprotein of the Indian isolates were 96–99% identical to the Sri Lankan isolates. This investigation re-confirms the previous speculations that the Sri Lankan variant of the virus may still be actively transmitted by animals in India.
PMCID: PMC3550735  PMID: 23637516
Rabies; India; Sri Lankan variant
10.  Complete Genome Sequence of a Street Rabies Virus Isolated from a Rabid Dog in China 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(19):10890-10891.
A rabies virus (RABV) was isolated from a dog in Anhui Province, China, in 2008. The virus was designated DRV-AH08. Its entire genome was sequenced and found to be closely related to RABV recently isolated in China and other Asian countries (homology of 87 to 98%) but distantly related to RABV in the “cosmopolitan” group (homology of 84 to 85%) in the clade I of RABV.
PMCID: PMC3457303  PMID: 22966185
11.  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
12.  Ferret badger rabies origin and its revisited importance as potential source of rabies transmission in Southeast China 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:234.
The frequent occurrence of ferret badger-associated human rabies cases in southeast China highlights the lack of laboratory-based surveillance and urges revisiting the potential importance of this animal in rabies transmission. To determine if the ferret badgers actually contribute to human and dog rabies cases, and the possible origin of the ferret badger-associated rabies in the region, an active rabies survey was conducted to determine the frequency of rabies infection and seroprevalence in dogs and ferret badgers.
A retrospective survey on rabies epidemics was performed in Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces in southeast China. The brain tissues from ferret badgers and dogs were assayed by fluorescent antibody test. Rabies virus was isolated and sequenced for phylogenetic analysis. The sera from ferret badgers and dogs were titrated using rabies virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) test.
The ferret badgers presented a higher percentage of rabies seroconversion than dogs did in the endemic region, reaching a maximum of 95% in the collected samples. Nine ferret badger-associated rabies viruses were isolated, sequenced, and were phylogenetically clustered as a separate group. Nucleotide sequence revealed 99.4-99.8% homology within the ferret badger isolates, and 83-89% homology to the dog isolates in the nucleoprotein and glycoprotein genes in the same rabies endemic regions.
Our data suggest ferret badger-associated rabies has likely formed as an independent enzootic originating from dogs during the long-term rabies infestation in southeast China. The eventual role of FB rabies in public health remains unclear. However, management of ferret badger bites, rabies awareness and control in the related regions should be an immediate need.
PMCID: PMC2927599  PMID: 20691095
13.  National Borders Effectively Halt the Spread of Rabies: The Current Rabies Epidemic in China Is Dislocated from Cases in Neighboring Countries 
China has seen a massive resurgence of rabies cases in the last 15 years with more than 25,000 human fatalities. Initial cases were reported in the southwest but are now reported in almost every province. There have been several phylogenetic investigations into the origin and spread of the virus within China but few reports investigating the impact of the epidemic on neighboring countries. We therefore collected nucleoprotein sequences from China and South East Asia and investigated their phylogenetic and phylogeographic relationship. Our results indicate that within South East Asia, isolates mainly cluster according to their geographic origin. We found evidence of sporadic exchange of strains between neighboring countries, but it appears that the major strain responsible for the current Chinese epidemic has not been exported. This suggests that national geographical boundaries and border controls are effective at halting the spread of rabies from China into adjacent regions. We further investigated the geographic structure of Chinese sequences and found that the current epidemic is dominated by variant strains that were likely present at low levels in previous domestic epidemics. We also identified epidemiological linkages between high incidence provinces consistent with observations based on surveillance data from human rabies cases.
Author Summary
Rabies as a fatal zoonotic disease continues to be a public threat to global public health. After India, China reports the second highest number of human cases, with more than 117,500 deaths and three major epidemics since 1950. China remains in the middle of the third epidemic. In this work we investigate the impact of China on rabies in South East (SE) Asia. We collected nucleoprotein sequences from samples isolated throughout SE Asia and investigated their phylogenetic and geographic relationships. Our results indicate that clear geographic patterns exist within rabies virus in SE Asia, with isolates mainly clustered according to their geographic origin. While we found evidence of the sporadic exchange of strains between neighboring countries, the major strain responsible for the current Chinese epidemic does not appear to spread to neighboring countries. Our findings suggest that national geographical boundaries and border controls act as effective barriers to halt the spread of rabies from China into adjacent regions. We further investigated the geographic structure of Chinese sequences and found the current epidemic is dominated by variant strains that likely evolved from previous domestic epidemics. Our study provides valuable insight for rabies control and prevention in China and SE Asia.
PMCID: PMC3561166  PMID: 23383359
14.  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
15.  Host immunity to repeated rabies virus infection in big brown bats 
The Journal of General Virology  2010;91(Pt 9):2360-2366.
Bats are natural reservoirs for the majority of lyssaviruses globally, and are unique among mammals in having exceptional sociality and longevity. Given these facets, and the recognized status of bats as reservoirs for rabies viruses (RABVs) in the Americas, individual bats may experience repeated exposure to RABV during their lifetime. Nevertheless, little information exists with regard to within-host infection dynamics and the role of immunological memory that may result from abortive RABV infection in bats. In this study, a cohort of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) was infected intramuscularly in the left and right masseter muscles with varying doses [10−0.1–104.9 median mouse intracerebral lethal doses (MICLD50)] of an E. fuscus RABV variant isolated from a naturally infected big brown bat. Surviving bats were infected a second time at 175 days post-(primary) infection with a dose (103.9–104.9 MICLD50) of the same RABV variant. Surviving bats were infected a third time at either 175 or 305 days post-(secondary) infection with a dose (104.9 MICLD50) of the same RABV variant. When correcting for dose, similar mortality was observed following primary and secondary infection, but reduced mortality was observed following the third and last RABV challenge, despite infection with a high viral dose. Inducible RABV-neutralizing antibody titres post-infection were ephemeral among infected individuals, and dropped below levels of detection in several bats between subsequent infections. These results suggest that long-term repeated infection of bats may confer significant immunological memory and reduced susceptibility to RABV infection.
PMCID: PMC3052523  PMID: 20519458
16.  A Novel Rabies Vaccine Based on a Recombinant Parainfluenza Virus 5 Expressing Rabies Virus Glycoprotein 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(6):2986-2993.
Untreated rabies virus (RABV) infection leads to death. Vaccine and postexposure treatment have been effective in preventing RABV infection. However, due to cost, rabies vaccination and treatment have not been widely used in developing countries. There are 55,000 human death caused by rabies annually. An efficacious and cost-effective rabies vaccine is needed. Parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5) is thought to contribute to kennel cough, and kennel cough vaccines containing live PIV5 have been used in dogs for many years. In this work, a PIV5-vectored rabies vaccine was tested in mice. A recombinant PIV5 encoding RABV glycoprotein (G) (rPIV5-RV-G) was administered to mice via intranasal (i.n.), intramuscular (i.m.), and oral inoculation. The vaccinated mice were challenged with a 50% lethal challenge dose (LD50) of RABV challenge virus standard 24 (CVS-24) intracerebrally. A single dose of 106 PFU of rPIV5-RV-G was sufficient for 100% protection when administered via the i.n. route. The mice vaccinated with a single dose of 108 PFU of rPIV5-RV-G via the i.m. route showed very robust protection (90% to 100%). Intriguingly, the mice vaccinated orally with a single dose of 108 PFU of rPIV5-RV-G showed a 50% survival rate, which is comparable to the 60% survival rate among mice inoculated with an attenuated rabies vaccine strain, recombinant LBNSE. This is first report of an orally effective rabies vaccine candidate in animals based on PIV5 as a vector. These results indicate that rPIV5-RV-G is an excellent candidate for a new generation of recombinant rabies vaccine for humans and animals and PIV5 is a potential vector for oral vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3592160  PMID: 23269806
17.  Complete Genome Sequence of a Street Rabies Virus Isolated from a Dog in Nigeria 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(1):e00214-12.
A canine rabies virus (RABV) was isolated from a trade dog in Nigeria. Its entire genome was sequenced and found to be closely related to canine RABVs circulating in Africa. Sequence comparison indicates that the virus is closely related to the Africa 2 RABV lineage. The virus is now termed DRV-NG11.
PMCID: PMC3587938  PMID: 23469344
18.  Isolation and Identification of a Novel Rabies Virus Lineage in China with Natural Recombinant Nucleoprotein Gene 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e49992.
Rabies virus (RABV) causes severe neurological disease and death. As an important mechanism for generating genetic diversity in viruses, homologous recombination can lead to the emergence of novel virus strains with increased virulence and changed host tropism. However, it is still unclear whether recombination plays a role in the evolution of RABV. In this study, we isolated and sequenced four circulating RABV strains in China. Phylogenetic analyses identified a novel lineage of hybrid origin that comprises two different strains, J and CQ92. Analyses revealed that the virus 3′ untranslated region (UTR) and part of the N gene (approximate 500 nt in length) were likely derived from Chinese lineage I while the other part of the genomic sequence was homologous to Chinese lineage II. Our findings reveal that homologous recombination can occur naturally in the field and shape the genetic structure of RABV populations.
PMCID: PMC3514186  PMID: 23226506
19.  Infection with street strain rabies virus induces modulation of the microRNA profile of the mouse brain 
Virology Journal  2012;9:159.
Rabies virus (RABV) causes a fatal infection of the central nervous systems (CNS) of warm-blooded animals. Once the clinical symptoms develop, rabies is almost invariably fatal. The mechanism of RABV pathogenesis remains poorly understood. Recent studies have shown that microRNA (miRNA) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of viral infections. Our recent findings have revealed that infection with laboratory-fixed rabies virus strain can induce modulation of the microRNA profile of mouse brains. However, no previous report has evaluated the miRNA expression profile of mouse brains infected with RABV street strain.
The results of microarray analysis show that miRNA expression becomes modulated in the brains of mice infected with street RABV. Quantitative real-time PCR assay of the differentially expressed miRNAs confirmed the results of microarray assay. Functional analysis showed the differentially expressed miRNAs to be involved in many immune-related signaling pathways, such as the Jak-STAT signaling pathway, the MAPK signaling pathway, cytokine-cytokine receptor interactions, and Fc gamma R-mediated phagocytosis. The predicted expression levels of the target genes of these modulated miRNAs were found to be correlated with gene expression as measured by DNA microarray and qRT-PCR.
RABV causes significant changes in the miRNA expression profiles of infected mouse brains. Predicted target genes of the differentially expression miRNAs are associated with host immune response, which may provide important information for investigation of RABV pathogenesis and therapeutic method.
PMCID: PMC3549733  PMID: 22882874
Street strain rabies virus; Brain infection; MicroRNA profiling; Gene profiling; Target prediction; Functional enrichment
20.  Passive carriage of rabies virus by dendritic cells 
SpringerPlus  2013;2:419.
The rabies virus (RABV) is highly neurotropic and it uses evasive strategies to successfully evade the host immune system. Because rabies is often fatal, understanding the basic processes of the virus-host interactions, particularly in the initial events of infection, is critical for the design of new therapeutic approaches to target RABV. Here, we examined the possible role of dendritic cells (DCs) in the transmission of RABV to neural cells at peripheral site of exposure. Viral replication only occurred at a low level in the DC cell line, JAWS II, after its infection with either pathogenic RABV (CVS strain) or low-pathogenic RABV (ERA strain), and no progeny viruses were produced in the culture supernatants. However, both viral genomic RNAs were retained in the long term after infection and maintained their infectivity. The biggest difference between CVS and ERA was in their ability to induce type I interferons. Although the ERA-infected JAWS II cells exhibited cytopathic effect and were apparently killed by normal spleen cells in vitro, the CVS-infected JAWS II cells showed milder cytopathic effect and less lysis when cocultured with spleen cells. Strongly increased expression of major histocompatibility complex classes I, costimulatory molecules (CD80 and CD86), type I interferons and Toll- like receptor 3, and was observed only in the ERA-inoculated JAWS II cells and not in those inoculated with CVS. During the silencing of the cellular immune response in the DCs, the pathogenic CVS strain cryptically maintained an infectious viral genome and was capable of transmitting infectious RABV to permissive neural cells. These findings demonstrate that DCs may play a role in the passive carriage of RABV during natural rabies infections.
PMCID: PMC3765594  PMID: 24024103
Rabies virus; Dendritic cells; Immune invasion
21.  Emergence of Arctic-like Rabies Lineage in India 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2007;13(1):111-116.
Progenitors of Arctic-like rabies viruses, which now circulate extensively in India, may have been responsible for the emergence of the Arctic rabies lineage.
A collection of 37 rabies-infected samples, 10 human saliva and 27 animal brain, were recovered during 2001–2004 from the cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad in southern India and from Kasauli, a mountainous region in Himachal Pradesh, northern India. Phylogenetic analysis of partial N gene nucleotide sequences of these 37 specimens and 1 archival specimen identified 2 groups, divided according to their geographic (north or south) origins. Comparison of selected Indian viruses with representative rabies viruses recovered worldwide showed a close association of all Indian isolates with the circumpolar Arctic rabies lineage distributed throughout northern latitudes of North America and Europe and other viruses recovered from several Asian countries.
PMCID: PMC2725804  PMID: 17370523
human and dog rabies; molecular epidemiology; rabies virus Arctic lineage; research
22.  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
23.  Single Domain Antibody Multimers Confer Protection against Rabies Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71383.
Post-exposure prophylactic (PEP) neutralizing antibodies against Rabies are the most effective way to prevent infection-related fatality. The outer envelope glycoprotein of the Rabies virus (RABV) is the most significant surface antigen for generating virus-neutralizing antibodies. The small size and uncompromised functional specificity of single domain antibodies (sdAbs) can be exploited in the fields of experimental therapeutic applications for infectious diseases through formatting flexibilities to increase their avidity towards target antigens. In this study, we used phage display technique to select and identify sdAbs that were specific for the RABV glycoprotein from a naïve llama-derived antibody library. To increase their neutralizing potencies, the sdAbs were fused with a coiled-coil peptide derived from the human cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP48) to form homogenous pentavalent multimers, known as combodies. Compared to monovalent sdAbs, the combodies, namely 26424 and 26434, exhibited high avidity and were able to neutralize 85-fold higher input of RABV (CVS-11 strain) pseudotypes in vitro, as a result of multimerization, while retaining their specificities for target antigen. 26424 and 26434 were capable of neutralizing CVS-11 pseudotypes in vitro by 90–95% as compared to human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG), currently used for PEP in Rabies. The multimeric sdAbs were also demonstrated to be partially protective for mice that were infected with lethal doses of rabies virus in vivo. The results demonstrate that the combodies could be valuable tools in understanding viral mechanisms, diagnosis and possible anti-viral candidate for RABV infection.
PMCID: PMC3748109  PMID: 23977032
24.  ICAM-1-Based Rabies Virus Vaccine Shows Increased Infection and Activation of Primary Murine B Cells In Vitro and Enhanced Antibody Titers In-Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87098.
We have previously shown that live-attenuated rabies virus (RABV)-based vaccines infect and directly activate murine and human primary B cells in-vitro, which we propose can be exploited to help develop a single-dose RABV-based vaccine. Here we report on a novel approach to utilize the binding of Intracellular Adhesion Molecule-1 (ICAM-1) to its binding partner, Lymphocyte Function-associated Antigen-1 (LFA-1), on B cells to enhance B cell activation and RABV-specific antibody responses. We used a reverse genetics approach to clone, recover, and characterize a live-attenuated recombinant RABV-based vaccine expressing the murine Icam1 gene (rRABV-mICAM-1). We show that the murine ICAM-1 gene product is incorporated into virus particles, potentially exposing ICAM-1 to extracellular binding partners. While rRABV-mICAM-1 showed 10-100-fold decrease in viral titers on baby hamster kidney cells compared to the parental virus (rRABV), rRABV-mICAM-1 infected and activated primary murine B cells in-vitro more efficiently than rRABV, as indicated by significant upregulation of CD69, CD40, and MHCII on the surface of infected B cells. ICAM-1 expression on the virus surface was responsible for enhanced B cell infection since pre-treating rRABV-mICAM-1 with a neutralizing anti-ICAM-1 antibody reduced B cell infection to levels observed with rRABV alone. Furthermore, 100-fold less rRABV-mICAM-1 was needed to induce antibody titers in immunized mice equivalent to antibody titers observed in rRABV-immunized mice. Of note, only 103 focus forming units (ffu)/mouse of rRABV-mICAM-1 was needed to induce significant anti-RABV antibody titers as early as five days post-immunization. As both speed and potency of antibody responses are important in controlling human RABV infection in a post-exposure setting, these data show that expression of Icam1 from the RABV genome, which is then incorporated into the virus particle, is a promising strategy for the development of a single-dose RABV vaccine that requires only a minimum of virus.
PMCID: PMC3906113  PMID: 24489846
25.  A replication-deficient rabies virus vaccine expressing Ebola virus glycoprotein is highly attenuated for neurovirulence 
Virology  2012;434(1):18-26.
We are developing inactivated and live-attenuated rabies virus (RABV) vaccines expressing Ebola virus (EBOV) glycoprotein for use in humans and endangered wildlife, respectively. Here, we further characterize the pathogenesis of the live-attenuated RABV/EBOV vaccine candidates in mice in an effort to define their growth properties and potential for safety. RABV vaccines expressing GP (RV-GP) or a replication-deficient derivative with a deletion of the RABV G gene (RVΔG-GP) are both avirulent after intracerebral inoculation of adult mice. Furthermore, RVΔG-GP is completely avirulent upon intracerebral inoculation of suckling mice unlike parental RABV vaccine or RV-GP. Analysis of RVΔG-GP in the brain by quantitative PCR, determination of virus titer, and immunohistochemistry indicated greatly restricted virus replication. In summary, our findings indicate that RV-GP retains the attenuation phenotype of the live-attenuated RABV vaccine, and RVΔG-GP would appear to be an even safer alternative for use in wildlife or consideration for human use.
PMCID: PMC3484205  PMID: 22889613
Ebola virus; rabies virus; vaccine; neurovirulence; mice

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