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1.  Enhanced Passive Bat Rabies Surveillance in Indigenous Bat Species from Germany - A Retrospective Study 
In Germany, rabies in bats is a notifiable zoonotic disease, which is caused by European bat lyssaviruses type 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and 2), and the recently discovered new lyssavirus species Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV). As the understanding of bat rabies in insectivorous bat species is limited, in addition to routine bat rabies diagnosis, an enhanced passive surveillance study, i.e. the retrospective investigation of dead bats that had not been tested for rabies, was initiated in 1998 to study the distribution, abundance and epidemiology of lyssavirus infections in bats from Germany. A total number of 5478 individuals representing 21 bat species within two families were included in this study. The Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) and the Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) represented the most specimens submitted. Of all investigated bats, 1.17% tested positive for lyssaviruses using the fluorescent antibody test (FAT). The vast majority of positive cases was identified as EBLV-1, predominately associated with the Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus). However, rabies cases in other species, i.e. Nathusius' pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), P. pipistrellus and Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) were also characterized as EBLV-1. In contrast, EBLV-2 was isolated from three Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii). These three cases contribute significantly to the understanding of EBLV-2 infections in Germany as only one case had been reported prior to this study. This enhanced passive surveillance indicated that besides known reservoir species, further bat species are affected by lyssavirus infections. Given the increasing diversity of lyssaviruses and bats as reservoir host species worldwide, lyssavirus positive specimens, i.e. both bat and virus need to be confirmed by molecular techniques.
Author Summary
According to the World Health Organization rabies is considered both a neglected zoonotic and a tropical disease. The causative agents are lyssaviruses which have their primary reservoir in bats. Although bat rabies is notifiable in Germany, the number of submitted bats during routine surveillance is rarely representative of the natural bat population. Therefore, the aim of this study was to include dead bats from various sources for enhanced bat rabies surveillance. The results show that a considerable number of additional bat rabies cases can be detected, thus improving the knowledge on the frequency, geographical distribution and reservoir-association of bat lyssavirus infections in Germany. The overall proportion of positives was lower than during routine surveillance in Germany. While the majority of cases were found in the Serotine bat and characterized as European bat lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1), three of the four EBLV-2 infections detected in Germany were found in Myotis daubentonii during this study.
PMCID: PMC4006713  PMID: 24784117
2.  Bat Rabies in France: A 24-Year Retrospective Epidemiological Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98622.
Since bat rabies surveillance was first implemented in France in 1989, 48 autochthonous rabies cases without human contamination have been reported using routine diagnosis methods. In this retrospective study, data on bats submitted for rabies testing were analysed in order to better understand the epidemiology of EBLV-1 in bats in France and to investigate some epidemiological trends. Of the 3176 bats submitted for rabies diagnosis from 1989 to 2013, 1.96% (48/2447 analysed) were diagnosed positive. Among the twelve recognised virus species within the Lyssavirus genus, two species were isolated in France. 47 positive bats were morphologically identified as Eptesicus serotinus and were shown to be infected by both the EBLV-1a and the EBLV-1b lineages. Isolation of BBLV in Myotis nattereri was reported once in the north-east of France in 2012. The phylogenetic characterisation of all 47 French EBLV-1 isolates sampled between 1989 and 2013 and the French BBLV sample against 21 referenced partial nucleoprotein sequences confirmed the low genetic diversity of EBLV-1 despite its extensive geographical range. Statistical analysis performed on the serotine bat data collected from 1989 to 2013 showed seasonal variation of rabies occurrence with a significantly higher proportion of positive samples detected during the autumn compared to the spring and the summer period (34% of positive bats detected in autumn, 15% in summer, 13% in spring and 12% in winter). In this study, we have provided the details of the geographical distribution of EBLV-1a in the south-west of France and the north-south division of EBLV-1b with its subdivisions into three phylogenetic groups: group B1 in the north-west, group B2 in the centre and group B3 in the north-east of France.
PMCID: PMC4044004  PMID: 24892287
3.  Experimental infection of Foxes with European bat Lyssaviruses type-1 and 2 
Since 1954, there have been in excess of 800 cases of rabies as a result of European Bat Lyssaviruses types 1 and 2 (EBLV-1, EBLV-2) infection, mainly in Serotine and Myotis bats respectively. These viruses have rarely been reported to infect humans and terrestrial mammals, as the only exceptions are sheep in Denmark, a stone marten in Germany and a cat in France. The purpose of this study was to investigate the susceptibility of foxes to EBLVs using silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes) as a model.
Our experimental studies have shown that the susceptibility of foxes to EBLVs is low by the intramuscular (IM) route, however, animals were sensitive to intracranial (IC) inoculation. Mortality was 100% for both EBLV-1 (~4.5 logs) and EBLV-2 (~3.0 logs) delivered by the IC route. Virus dissemination and inflammatory infiltrate in the brain were demonstrated but virus specific neutralising antibody (VNA) was limited (log(ED50) = 0.24–2.23 and 0.95–2.39 respectively for specific EBLV-1 and EBLV-2). Foxes were also susceptible, at a low level, to peripheral (IM) infection (~3.0 logs) with EBLV-1 but not EBLV-2. Three out of 21 (14.3%) foxes developed clinical signs between 14 and 24 days post-EBLV-1 infection. None of the animals given EBLV-2 developed clinical disease.
These data suggest that the chance of a EBLV spill-over from bat to fox is low, but with a greater probability for EBLV-1 than for EBLV-2 and that foxes seem to be able to clear the virus before it reaches the brain and cause a lethal infection.
PMCID: PMC2694770  PMID: 19454020
4.  Evolutionary trends of European bat lyssavirus type 2 including genetic characterization of Finnish strains of human and bat origin 24 years apart 
Archives of Virology  2015;160(6):1489-1498.
Among other Lyssaviruses, Daubenton’s and pond-bat-related European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) can cause human rabies. To investigate the diversity and evolutionary trends of EBLV-2, complete genome sequences of two Finnish isolates were analysed. One originated from a human case in 1985, and the other originated from a bat in 2009. The overall nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequence identity of the two Finnish isolates were high, as well as the similarity to fully sequenced EBLV-2 strains originating from the UK and the Netherlands. In phylogenetic analysis, the EBLV-2 strains formed a monophyletic group that was separate from other bat-type lyssaviruses, with significant support. EBLV-2 shared the most recent common ancestry with Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV) and Khujan virus (KHUV). EBLV-2 showed limited diversity compared to RABV and appears to be well adapted to its host bat species. The slow tempo of viral evolution was evident in the estimations of divergence times for EBLV-2: the current diversity was estimated to have built up during the last 2000 years, and EBLV-2 diverged from KHUV about 8000 years ago. In a phylogenetic tree of partial N gene sequences, the Finnish EBLV-2 strains clustered with strains from Central Europe, supporting the hypothesis that EBLV-2 circulating in Finland might have a Central European origin. The Finnish EBLV-2 strains and a Swiss strain were estimated to have diverged from other EBLV-2 strains during the last 1000 years, and the two Finnish strains appear to have evolved from a common ancestor during the last 200 years.
PMCID: PMC4429142  PMID: 25877913
5.  Ecological Factors Associated with European Bat Lyssavirus Seroprevalence in Spanish Bats 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64467.
Bats have been proposed as major reservoirs for diverse emerging infectious viral diseases, with rabies being the best known in Europe. However, studies exploring the ecological interaction between lyssaviruses and their natural hosts are scarce. This study completes our active surveillance work on Spanish bat colonies that began in 1992. Herein, we analyzed ecological factors that might affect the infection dynamics observed in those colonies. Between 2001 and 2011, we collected and tested 2,393 blood samples and 45 dead bats from 25 localities and 20 bat species. The results for dead confirmed the presence of EBLV-1 RNA in six species analyzed (for the first time in Myotis capaccinii). Samples positive for European bat lyssavirus-1 (EBLV-1)–neutralizing antibodies were detected in 68% of the localities sampled and in 13 bat species, seven of which were found for the first time (even in Myotis daubentonii, a species to date always linked to EBLV-2). EBLV-1 seroprevalence (20.7%) ranged between 11.1 and 40.2% among bat species and seasonal variation was observed, with significantly higher antibody prevalence in summer (July). EBLV-1 seroprevalence was significantly associated with colony size and species richness. Higher seroprevalence percentages were found in large multispecific colonies, suggesting that intra- and interspecific contacts are major risk factors for EBLV-1 transmission in bat colonies. Although bat-roosting behavior strongly determines EBLV-1 variability, we also found some evidence that bat phylogeny might be involved in bat-species seroprevalence. The results of this study highlight the importance of life history and roost ecology in understanding EBLV-1–prevalence patterns in bat colonies and also provide useful information for public health officials.
PMCID: PMC3659107  PMID: 23700480
6.  Bat rabies surveillance in Finland 
In 1985, a bat researcher in Finland died of rabies encephalitis caused by European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2), but an epidemiological study in 1986 did not reveal EBLV-infected bats. In 2009, an EBLV-2-positive Daubenton’s bat was detected. The EBLV-2 isolate from the human case in 1985 and the isolate from the bat in 2009 were genetically closely related. In order to assess the prevalence of EBLVs in Finnish bat populations and to gain a better understanding of the public health risk that EBLV-infected bats pose, a targeted active surveillance project was initiated.
Altogether, 1156 bats of seven species were examined for lyssaviruses in Finland during a 28–year period (1985–2012), 898 in active surveillance and 258 in passive surveillance, with only one positive finding of EBLV-2 in a Daubenton’s bat in 2009. In 2010–2011, saliva samples from 774 bats of seven species were analyzed for EBLV viral RNA, and sera from 423 bats were analyzed for the presence of bat lyssavirus antibodies. Antibodies were detected in Daubenton’s bats in samples collected from two locations in 2010 and from one location in 2011. All seropositive locations are in close proximity to the place where the EBLV-2 positive Daubenton’s bat was found in 2009. In active surveillance, no EBLV viral RNA was detected.
These data suggest that EBLV-2 may circulate in Finland, even though the seroprevalence is low. Our results indicate that passive surveillance of dead or sick bats is a relevant means examine the occurrence of lyssavirus infection, but the number of bats submitted for laboratory analysis should be higher in order to obtain reliable information on the lyssavirus situation in the country.
PMCID: PMC3846527  PMID: 24011337
EBLV; Lyssavirus; Rabies; Seroprevalence
7.  Insights into Persistence Mechanisms of a Zoonotic Virus in Bat Colonies Using a Multispecies Metapopulation Model 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95610.
Rabies is a worldwide zoonosis resulting from Lyssavirus infection. In Europe, Eptesicus serotinus is the most frequently reported bat species infected with Lyssavirus, and thus considered to be the reservoir of European bat Lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1). To date, the role of other bat species in EBLV-1 epidemiology and persistence remains unknown. Here, we built an EBLV-1−transmission model based on local observations of a three-cave and four-bat species (Myotis capaccinii, Myotis myotis, Miniopterus schreibersii, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) system in the Balearic Islands, for which a 1995–2011 serological dataset indicated the continuous presence of EBLV-1. Eptesicus serotinus was never observed in the system during the 16-year follow-up and therefore was not included in the model. We used the model to explore virus persistence mechanisms and to assess the importance of each bat species in the transmission dynamics. We found that EBLV-1 could not be sustained if transmission between M. schreibersii and other bat species was eliminated, suggesting that this species serves as a regional reservoir. Global sensitivity analysis using Sobol's method revealed that following the rate of autumn−winter infectious contacts, M. schreibersii's incubation- and immune-period durations, but not the infectious period length, were the most relevant factors driving virus persistence.
PMCID: PMC3995755  PMID: 24755619
8.  Phylogeography, Population Dynamics, and Molecular Evolution of European Bat Lyssaviruses 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(16):10487-10497.
European bat lyssaviruses types 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and EBLV-2) are widespread in Europe, although little is known of their evolutionary history. We undertook a comprehensive sequence analysis to infer the selection pressures, rates of nucleotide substitution, age of genetic diversity, geographical origin, and population growth rates of EBLV-1. Our study encompassed data from 12 countries collected over a time span of 35 years and focused on the glycoprotein (G) and nucleoprotein (N) genes. We show that although the two subtypes of EBLV-1—EBLV-1a and EBLV-1b—have both grown at a low exponential rate since their introduction into Europe, they have differing population structures and dispersal patterns. Furthermore, there were strong constraints against amino acid change in both EBLV-1 and EBLV-2, as reflected in a low ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitutions per site, particularly in EBLV-1b. Our inferred rate of nucleotide substitution in EBLV-1, approximately 5 × 10−5 substitutions per site per year, was also one of the lowest recorded for RNA viruses and implied that the current genetic diversity in the virus arose 500 to 750 years ago. We propose that the slow evolution of EBLVs reflects their distinctive epidemiology in bats, where they occupy a relatively stable fitness peak.
PMCID: PMC1182613  PMID: 16051841
9.  Seroprevalence Dynamics of European Bat Lyssavirus Type 1 in a Multispecies Bat Colony 
Viruses  2014;6(9):3386-3399.
We report an active surveillance study of the occurrence of specific antibodies to European Bat Lyssavirus Type 1 (EBLV-1) in bat species, scarcely studied hitherto, that share the same refuge. From 2004 to 2012, 406 sera were obtained from nine bat species. Blood samples were subjected to a modified fluorescent antibody virus neutralization test to determine the antibody titer. EBLV-1-neutralizing antibodies were detected in six of the nine species analyzed (Pipistrellus pipistrellus, P. kuhlii, Hypsugo savii, Plecotus austriacus, Eptesicus serotinus and Tadarida teniotis). Among all bats sampled, female seroprevalence (20.21%, 95% CI: 14.78%–26.57%) was not significantly higher than the seroprevalence in males (15.02%, 95% CI: 10.51%–20.54%). The results showed that the inter-annual variation in the number of seropositive bats in T. teniotis and P. austriacus showed a peak in 2007 (>70% of EBLV-1 prevalence). However, significant differences were observed in the temporal patterns of the seroprevalence modeling of T. teniotis and P. austriacus. The behavioral ecology of these species involved could explain the different annual fluctuations in EBLV-1 seroprevalence.
PMCID: PMC4189026  PMID: 25192547
bats; EBLV-1; Iberian Peninsula; Lyssavirus; prevalence; serology; temporal variation
10.  Temporal Dynamics of European Bat Lyssavirus Type 1 and Survival of Myotis myotis Bats in Natural Colonies 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(6):e566.
Many emerging RNA viruses of public health concern have recently been detected in bats. However, the dynamics of these viruses in natural bat colonies is presently unknown. Consequently, prediction of the spread of these viruses and the establishment of appropriate control measures are hindered by a lack of information. To this aim, we collected epidemiological, virological and ecological data during a twelve-year longitudinal study in two colonies of insectivorous bats (Myotis myotis) located in Spain and infected by the most common bat lyssavirus found in Europe, the European bat lyssavirus subtype 1 (EBLV-1). This active survey demonstrates that cyclic lyssavirus infections occurred with periodic oscillations in the number of susceptible, immune and infected bats. Persistence of immunity for more than one year was detected in some individuals. These data were further used to feed models to analyze the temporal dynamics of EBLV-1 and the survival rate of bats. According to these models, the infection is characterized by a predicted low basic reproductive rate (R0 = 1.706) and a short infectious period (D = 5.1 days). In contrast to observations in most non-flying animals infected with rabies, the survival model shows no variation in mortality after EBLV-1 infection of M. myotis. These findings have considerable public health implications in terms of management of colonies where lyssavirus-positive bats have been recorded and confirm the potential risk of rabies transmission to humans. A greater understanding of the dynamics of lyssavirus in bat colonies also provides a model to study how bats contribute to the maintenance and transmission of other viruses of public health concern.
PMCID: PMC1892799  PMID: 17593965
11.  Interspecies protein substitution to investigate the role of the lyssavirus glycoprotein 
The Journal of General Virology  2013;94(Pt 2):284-292.
European bat lyssaviruses type 1 (EBLV-1) and type 2 (EBLV-2) circulate within bat populations throughout Europe and are capable of causing disease indistinguishable from that caused by classical rabies virus (RABV). However, the determinants of viral fitness and pathogenicity are poorly understood. Full-length genome clones based on the highly attenuated, non-neuroinvasive, RABV vaccine strain (SAD-B19) were constructed with the glycoprotein (G) of either SAD-B19 (SN), of EBLV-1 (SN-1) or EBLV-2 (SN-2). In vitro characterization of SN-1 and SN-2 in comparison to wild-type EBLVs demonstrated that the substitution of G affected the final virus titre and antigenicity. In vivo, following peripheral infection with a high viral dose (104 f.f.u.), animals infected with SN-1 had reduced survivorship relative to infection with SN, resulting in survivorship similar to animals infected with EBLV-1. The histopathological changes and antigen distribution observed for SN-1 were more representative of those observed with SN than with EBLV-1. EBLV-2 was unable to achieve a titre equivalent to that of the other viruses. Therefore, a reduced-dose experiment (103 f.f.u.) was undertaken in vivo to compare EBLV-2 and SN-2, which resulted in 100 % survivorship for all recombinant viruses (SN, SN-1 and SN-2) while clinical disease developed in mice infected with the EBLVs. These data indicate that interspecies replacement of G has an effect on virus titre in vitro, probably as a result of suboptimal G–matrix protein interactions, and influences the survival outcome following a peripheral challenge with a high virus titre in mice.
PMCID: PMC3709617  PMID: 23100360
12.  A Step Forward in Molecular Diagnostics of Lyssaviruses – Results of a Ring Trial among European Laboratories 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58372.
Rabies is a lethal and notifiable zoonotic disease for which diagnostics have to meet the highest standards. In recent years, an evolution was especially seen in molecular diagnostics with a wide variety of different detection methods published. Therefore, a first international ring trial specifically designed on the use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for detection of lyssavirus genomic RNA was organized. The trial focussed on assessment and comparison of the performance of conventional and real-time assays. In total, 16 European laboratories participated. All participants were asked to investigate a panel of defined lyssavirus RNAs, consisting of Rabies virus (RABV) and European bat lyssavirus 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and -2) RNA samples, with systems available in their laboratory.
The ring trial allowed the important conclusion that conventional RT-PCR assays were really robust assays tested with a high concordance between different laboratories and assays. The real-time RT-PCR system by Wakeley et al. (2005) in combination with an intercalating dye, and the combined version by Hoffmann and co-workers (2010) showed good sensitivity for the detection of all RABV samples included in this test panel. Furthermore, all used EBLV-specific assays, real-time RT-PCRs as well as conventional RT-PCR systems, were shown to be suitable for a reliable detection of EBLVs. It has to be mentioned that differences were seen in the performance between both the individual RT-PCR systems and the laboratories. Laboratories which used more than one molecular assay for testing the sample panel always concluded a correct sample result.
Due to the markedly high genetic diversity of lyssaviruses, the application of different assays in diagnostics is needed to achieve a maximum of diagnostic accuracy. To improve the knowledge about the diagnostic performance proficiency testing at an international level is recommended before using lyssavirus molecular diagnostics e.g. for confirmatory testing.
PMCID: PMC3592807  PMID: 23520505
13.  Screening of Active Lyssavirus Infection in Wild Bat Populations by Viral RNA Detection on Oropharyngeal Swabs 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(10):3678-3683.
Brain analysis cannot be used for the investigation of active lyssavirus infection in healthy bats because most bat species are protected by conservation directives. Consequently, serology remains the only tool for performing virological studies on natural bat populations; however, the presence of antibodies merely reflects past exposure to the virus and is not a valid marker of active infection. This work describes a new nested reverse transcription (RT)-PCR technique specifically designed for the detection of the European bat virus 1 on oropharyngeal swabs obtained from bats but also able to amplify RNA from the remaining rabies-related lyssaviruses in brain samples. The technique was successfully used for surveillance of a serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) colony involved in a case of human exposure, in which 15 out of 71 oropharyngeal swabs were positive. Lyssavirus infection was detected on 13 oropharyngeal swabs but in only 5 brains out of the 34 animals from which simultaneous brain and oropharyngeal samples had been taken. The lyssavirus involved could be rapidly identified by automatic sequencing of the RT-PCR products obtained from 14 brains and three bat oropharyngeal swabs. In conclusion, RT-PCR using oropharyngeal swabs will permit screening of wild bat populations for active lyssavirus infection, for research or epidemiological purposes, in line not only with conservation policies but also in a more efficient manner than classical detection techniques used on the brain.
PMCID: PMC88406  PMID: 11574590
14.  Intergenotypic Replacement of Lyssavirus Matrix Proteins Demonstrates the Role of Lyssavirus M Proteins in Intracellular Virus Accumulation ▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;84(4):1816-1827.
Lyssavirus assembly depends on the matrix protein (M). We compared lyssavirus M proteins from different genotypes for their ability to support assembly and egress of genotype 1 rabies virus (RABV). Transcomplementation of M-deficient RABV with M from European bat lyssavirus (EBLV) types 1 and 2 reduced the release of infectious virus. Stable introduction of the heterogenotypic M proteins into RABV led to chimeric viruses with reduced virus release and intracellular accumulation of virus genomes. Although the chimeras indicated genotype-specific evolution of M, rapid selection of a compensatory mutant suggested conserved mechanisms of lyssavirus assembly and the requirement for only few adaptive mutations to fit the heterogenotypic M to a RABV backbone. Whereas the compensatory mutant replicated to similar infectious titers as RABV M-expressing virus, ultrastructural analysis revealed that both nonadapted EBLV M chimeras and the compensatory mutant differed from RABV M expressing viruses in the lack of intracellular viruslike structures that are enveloped and accumulate in cisterna of the degranulated and dilated rough endoplasmic reticulum compartment. Moreover, all viruses were able to bud at the plasma membrane. Since the lack of the intracellular viruslike structures correlated with the type of M protein but not with the efficiency of virus release, we hypothesize that the M proteins of EBLV-1 and RABV differ in their target membranes for virus assembly. Although the biological function of intracellular assembly and accumulation of viruslike structures in the endoplasmic reticulum remain unclear, the observed differences could contribute to diverse host tropism or pathogenicity.
PMCID: PMC2812392  PMID: 19955305
15.  European Bat Lyssavirus in Scottish Bats 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2005;11(4):572-578.
Daubenton bats may roost infrequently in human dwellings, so risk for human contact is low.
We report the first seroprevalence study of the occurrence of specific antibodies to European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) in Daubenton's bats. Bats were captured from 19 sites across eastern and southern Scotland. Samples from 198 Daubenton's bats, 20 Natterer's bats, and 6 Pipistrelle's bats were tested for EBLV-2. Blood samples (N = 94) were subjected to a modified fluorescent antibody virus neutralization test to determine antibody titer. From 0.05% to 3.8% (95% confidence interval) of Daubenton's bats were seropositive. Antibodies to EBLV-2 were not detected in the 2 other species tested. Mouth swabs (N = 218) were obtained, and RNA was extracted for a reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The RT-PCR included pan lyssavirus-primers (N gene) and internal PCR control primers for ribosomal RNA. EBLV-2 RNA was not detected in any of the saliva samples tested, and live virus was not detected in virus isolation tests.
PMCID: PMC3320325  PMID: 15829196
Lyssavirus; EBLV-2; seroprevalence; Daubenton bats; Scotland; research
16.  Anti-Lyssaviral Activity of Interferons κ and ω from the Serotine Bat, Eptesicus serotinus 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(10):5444-5454.
Interferons (IFNs) are cytokines produced by host cells in response to the infection with pathogens. By binding to the corresponding receptors, IFNs trigger different pathways to block intracellular replication and growth of pathogens and to impede the infection of surrounding cells. Due to their key role in host defense against viral infections, as well as for clinical therapies, the IFN responses and regulation mechanisms are well studied. However, studies of type I IFNs have mainly focused on alpha interferon (IFN-α) and IFN-β subtypes. Knowledge of IFN-κ and IFN-ω is limited. Moreover, most studies are performed in humans or mouse models but not in the original host of zoonotic pathogens. Bats are important reservoirs and transmitters of zoonotic viruses such as lyssaviruses. A few studies have shown an antiviral activity of IFNs in fruit bats. However, the function of type I IFNs against lyssaviruses in bats has not been studied yet. Here, IFN-κ and IFN-ω genes from the European serotine bat, Eptesicus serotinus, were cloned and functionally characterized. E. serotinus IFN-κ and IFN-ω genes are intronless and well conserved between microchiropteran species. The promoter regions of both genes contain essential regulatory elements for transcription factors. In vitro studies indicated a strong activation of IFN signaling by recombinant IFN-ω, whereas IFN-κ displayed weaker activation. Noticeably, both IFNs inhibit to different extents the replication of different lyssaviruses in susceptible bat cell lines. The present study provides functional data on the innate host defense against lyssaviruses in endangered European bats.
IMPORTANCE We describe here for the first time the molecular and functional characterization of two type I interferons (IFN-κ and -ω) from European serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus). The importance of this study is mainly based on the fact that very limited information about the early innate immune response against bat lyssaviruses in their natural host serotine bats is yet available. Generally, whereas the antiviral activity of other type I interferons is well studied, the functional involvement of IFN-κ and -ω has not yet been investigated.
PMCID: PMC4019090  PMID: 24574413
17.  Investigating antibody neutralization of lyssaviruses using lentiviral pseudotypes: a cross-species comparison 
The Journal of General Virology  2008;89(Pt 9):2204-2213.
Cross-neutralization between rabies virus (RABV) and two European bat lyssaviruses (EBLV-1 and -2) was analysed using lentiviral pseudotypes as antigen vectors. Glycoprotein (G-protein) cDNA from RABV challenge virus standard-11 (CVS-11) and EBLV-1 and -2 were cloned and co-expressed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or murine leukemia virus (MLV) gag–pol and packageable green fluorescent protein (GFP) or luciferase reporter genes in human cells. The harvested lentiviral (HIV) vector infected over 40 % of baby hamster kidney (BHK) target cells, providing high-titre pseudotype stocks. Tests on blinded antibody-positive (n=15) and -negative (n=45) sera, predetermined by the fluorescent antibody virus neutralization (FAVN) test approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Office International des Epizooties (OIE), revealed that the CVS-11 pseudotype assay had 100 % concordance with FAVN and strongly correlated with neutralization titres (r2=0.89). Cross-neutralization tests using sera from RABV-vaccinated humans and animals on pseudotypes with CVS-11, EBLV-1 and EBLV-2 envelopes showed that the relative neutralization titres correlated broadly with the degree of G-protein diversity. Pseudotypes have three major advantages over live-virus neutralization tests: (i) they can be handled in low-biohazard-level laboratories; (ii) the use of reporter genes such as GFP or β-galactosidase will allow the assay to be undertaken at low cost in laboratories worldwide; (iii) each assay requires <10 μl serum. This robust microassay will improve our understanding of the protective humoral immunity that current rabies vaccines confer against emerging lyssaviruses, and will be applicable to surveillance studies, thus helping to control the spread of rabies.
PMCID: PMC2886951  PMID: 18753230
18.  Isolation of Irkut Virus from a Murina leucogaster Bat in China 
Background and objectives
Bats are recognized as a major reservoir of lyssaviruses; however, no bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Asia except for Aravan and Khujand virus in Central Asia. All Chinese lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been of species rabies virus, mainly from dogs. Following at least two recent bat-associated human rabies-like cases in northeast China, we have initiated a study of the prevalence of lyssaviruses in bats in Jilin province and their public health implications. A bat lyssavirus has been isolated and its pathogenicity in mice and genomic alignment have been determined.
We report the first isolation of a bat lyssavirus in China, from the brain of a northeastern bat, Murina leucogaster. Its nucleoprotein gene shared 92.4%/98.9% (nucleotide) and 92.2%/98.8% (amino acid) identity with the two known Irkut virus isolates from Russia, and was designated IRKV-THChina12. Following intracranial and intramuscular injection, IRKV-THChina12 produced rabies-like symptoms in adult mice with a short inoculation period and high mortality. Nucleotide sequence analysis showed that IRKV-THChina12 has the same genomic organization as other lyssaviruses and its isolation provides an independent origin for the species IRKV.
We have identified the existence of a bat lyssavirus in a common Chinese bat species. Its high pathogenicity in adult mice suggests that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
Author Summary
The Lyssavirus genus presently comprises 12 species and two unapproved species with different antigenic characteristics. Rabies virus is detectable worldwide; Lagos bat virus, Mokola virus, Duvenhage virus, Shimoni bat virus, and Ikoma lyssavirus circulate in Africa; European bat lyssavirus types 1 and 2, Irkut virus, West Caucasian bat virus, and Bokeloh bat lyssavirus are found in Europe; and Australian bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Australia. Only Aravan and Khujand viruses have been identified in central Asia. Bats are recognized as the most important reservoirs of lyssaviruses. In China, all lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been rabies virus, mainly from dogs; none has been from bats. Recently, however, at least two bat-associated human rabies or rabies-like cases have been reported in northeast China. Therefore, we conducted a search for bat lyssaviruses in Jilin province, close to where the first bat-associated human rabies case was recorded. We isolated a bat lyssavirus, identified as an Irkut virus isolate with high pathogenicity in experimental mice. Our findings suggest that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance should be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
PMCID: PMC3591329  PMID: 23505588
19.  Rabies-Related Knowledge and Practices Among Persons At Risk of Bat Exposures in Thailand 
Rabies is a fatal encephalitis caused by lyssaviruses. Evidence of lyssavirus circulation has recently emerged in Southeast Asian bats. A cross-sectional study was conducted in Thailand to assess rabies-related knowledge and practices among persons regularly exposed to bats and bat habitats. The objectives were to identify deficiencies in rabies awareness, describe the occurrence of bat exposures, and explore factors associated with transdermal bat exposures.
A survey was administered to a convenience sample of adult guano miners, bat hunters, game wardens, and residents/personnel at Buddhist temples where mass bat roosting occurs. The questionnaire elicited information on demographics, experience with bat exposures, and rabies knowledge. Participants were also asked to describe actions they would take in response to a bat bite as well as actions for a bite from a potentially rabid animal. Bivariate analysis was used to compare responses between groups and multivariable logistic regression was used to explore factors independently associated with being bitten or scratched by a bat.
Of 106 people interviewed, 11 (10%) identified bats as a potential source of rabies. A history of a bat bite or scratch was reported by 29 (27%), and 38 (36%) stated either that they would do nothing or that they did not know what they would do in response to a bat bite. Guano miners were less likely than other groups to indicate animal bites as a mechanism of rabies transmission (68% vs. 90%, p = 0.03) and were less likely to say they would respond appropriately to a bat bite or scratch (61% vs. 27%, p = 0.003). Guano mining, bat hunting, and being in a bat cave or roost area more than 5 times a year were associated with history of a bat bite or scratch.
These findings indicate the need for educational outreach to raise awareness of bat rabies, promote exposure prevention, and ensure appropriate health-seeking behaviors for bat-inflicted wounds, particularly among at-risk groups in Thailand.
Author Summary
Rabies is a fatal encephalitis caused by lyssaviruses. Evidence of lyssavirus circulation has recently emerged in Southeast Asian bats. We surveyed persons regularly exposed to bats and bat habitats in Thailand to assess rabies‐related knowledge and practices. Targeted groups included guano miners, bat hunters, game wardens, and residents/personnel at Buddhist temples where mass bat roosting occurs. Of the 106 people interviewed, 11 (10%) identified bats as a source of rabies. History of a bat bite/scratch was reported by 29 (27%), and 38 (36%) expressed either that they would do nothing or that they did not know what they would do in response to a bat bite. Guano miners were less likely than other groups to indicate animal bites as a mechanism of transmission (68% vs. 90%, p=0.03) and were less likely to say they would respond appropriately to a bat bite or scratch (61% vs. 27%, p=0.003). These findings indicate a need for educational outreach in Thailand to raise awareness of bat rabies, promote exposure prevention, and ensure health‐seeking behaviors for bat‐inflicted wounds, particularly among at‐risk groups.
PMCID: PMC3125144  PMID: 21738801
20.  New Lyssavirus Genotype from the Lesser Mouse-eared Bat (Myotis blythi), Kyrghyzstan 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2003;9(3):333-337.
The Aravan virus was isolated from a Lesser Mouse-eared Bat (Myotis blythi) in the Osh region of Kyrghyzstan, central Asia, in 1991. We determined the complete sequence of the nucleoprotein (N) gene and compared it with those of 26 representative lyssaviruses obtained from databases. The Aravan virus was distinguished from seven distinct genotypes on the basis of nucleotide and amino acid identity. Phylogenetic analysis based on both nucleotide and amino acid sequences showed that the Aravan virus was more closely related to genotypes 4, 5, and—to a lesser extent—6, which circulates among insectivorus bats in Europe and Africa. The Aravan virus does not belong to any of the seven known genotypes of lyssaviruses, namely, rabies, Lagos bat, Mokola, and Duvenhage viruses and European bat lyssavirus 1, European bat lyssavirus 2, and Australian bat lyssavirus. Based on these data, we propose a new genotype for the Lyssavirus genus.
PMCID: PMC2958534  PMID: 12643828
Lyssavirus; genotype; N gene; phylogenetic analysis; bat; central Asia; research
21.  A universal real-time assay for the detection of Lyssaviruses 
Journal of Virological Methods  2011;177(1-24):87-93.
► Universal real-time PCR primer pair demonstrated to hybridize to and detect each of the known Lyssaviruses (including Rabies virus) with greater sensitivity than a standard pan-Lyssavirus hemi-nested RT-PCR typically used. ► Target sequences of bat derived virus species unavailable for analysis (Aravan-, Khujand-, Irkut-, West Caucasian bat- and Shimoni bat virus) were synthesized to produce oligonucleotides and the synthetic DNA was used as a target for primer hybridization.
Rabies virus (RABV) is enzootic throughout most of the world. It is now widely accepted that RABV had its origins in bats. Ten of the 11 Lyssavirus species recognised, including RABV, have been isolated from bats. There is, however, a lack of understanding regarding both the ecology and host reservoirs of Lyssaviruses. A real-time PCR assay for the detection of all Lyssaviruses using universal primers would be beneficial for Lyssavirus surveillance. It was shown that using SYBR® Green, a universal real-time PCR primer pair previously demonstrated to detect European bat Lyssaviruses 1 and 2, and RABV, was able to detect reverse transcribed RNA for each of the seven virus species available to us. Target sequences of bat derived virus species unavailable for analysis were synthesized to produce oligonucleotides. Lagos Bat-, Duvenhage- and Mokola virus full nucleoprotein gene clones enabled a limit of 5–50 plasmid copies to be detected. Five copies of each of the synthetic DNA oligonucleotides of Aravan-, Khujand-, Irkut-, West Caucasian bat- and Shimoni bat virus were detected. The single universal primer pair was therefore able to detect each of the most divergent known Lyssaviruses with great sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC3191275  PMID: 21777619
Lyssavirus; Rabies; Bat; SYBR Green; Real-time PCR; Synthetic DNA
22.  Phylogeny of European Bat Lyssavirus 1 in Eptesicus isabellinus Bats, Spain 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2011;17(3):520-523.
To better understand the epidemiology of European bat lyssavirus 1 (EBLV-1) in Europe, we phylogenetically characterized Lyssavirus from Eptesicus isabellinus bats in Spain. An independent cluster of EBLV-1 possibly resulted from geographic isolation and association with a different reservoir from other European strains. EBLV-1 phylogeny is complex and probably associated with host evolutionary history.
PMCID: PMC3166003  PMID: 21392449
Lyssavirus; bats; phylogeny; rabies; EBLV-1; Eptesicus isabellinus; viruses; Spain; dispatch
23.  Comparative studies on the genetic, antigenic and pathogenic characteristics of Bokeloh bat lyssavirus 
The Journal of General Virology  2014;95(Pt 8):1647-1653.
Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV), a novel lyssavirus, was isolated from a Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattererii), a chiropteran species with a widespread and abundant distribution across Europe. As a novel lyssavirus, the risks of BBLV to animal and human health are unknown and as such characterization both in vitro and in vivo was required to assess pathogenicity and vaccine protection. Full genome sequence analysis and antigenic cartography demonstrated that the German BBLV isolates are most closely related to European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) and Khujand virus and can be characterized within phylogroup I. In vivo characterization demonstrated that BBLV was pathogenic in mice when inoculated peripherally causing clinical signs typical for rabies encephalitis, with higher pathogenicity observed in juvenile mice. A limited vaccination-challenge experiment in mice was conducted and suggested that current vaccines would afford some protection against BBLV although further studies are warranted to determine a serological cut-off for protection.
PMCID: PMC4103065  PMID: 24828330
24.  A Two-Step Lyssavirus Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Using Degenerate Primers with Superior Sensitivity to the Fluorescent Antigen Test 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:256175.
A generic two-step lyssavirus real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), based on a nested PCR strategy, was validated for the detection of different lyssavirus species. Primers with 17 to 30% of degenerate bases were used in both consecutive steps. The assay could accurately detect RABV, LBV, MOKV, DUVV, EBLV-1, EBLV-2, and ABLV. In silico sequence alignment showed a functional match with the remaining lyssavirus species. The diagnostic specificity was 100% and the sensitivity proved to be superior to that of the fluorescent antigen test. The limit of detection was ≤1 50% tissue culture infectious dose. The related vesicular stomatitis virus was not recognized, confirming the selectivity for lyssaviruses. The assay was applied to follow the evolution of rabies virus infection in the brain of mice from 0 to 10 days after intranasal inoculation. The obtained RNA curve corresponded well with the curves obtained by a one-step monospecific RABV-qRT-PCR, the fluorescent antigen test, and virus titration. Despite the presence of degenerate bases, the assay proved to be highly sensitive, specific, and reproducible.
PMCID: PMC4009295  PMID: 24822188
25.  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

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