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1.  Large-Scale Phylogenomic Analysis Reveals the Complex Evolutionary History of Rabies Virus in Multiple Carnivore Hosts 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(12):e1006041.
The natural evolution of rabies virus (RABV) provides a potent example of multiple host shifts and an important opportunity to determine the mechanisms that underpin viral emergence. Using 321 genome sequences spanning an unprecedented diversity of RABV, we compared evolutionary rates and selection pressures in viruses sampled from multiple primary host shifts that occurred on various continents. Two major phylogenetic groups, bat-related RABV and dog-related RABV, experiencing markedly different evolutionary dynamics were identified. While no correlation between time and genetic divergence was found in bat-related RABV, the evolution of dog-related RABV followed a generally clock-like structure, although with a relatively low evolutionary rate. Subsequent molecular clock dating indicated that dog-related RABV likely underwent a rapid global spread following the intensification of intercontinental trade starting in the 15th century. Strikingly, although dog RABV has jumped to various wildlife species from the order Carnivora, we found no clear evidence that these host-jumping events involved adaptive evolution, with RABV instead characterized by strong purifying selection, suggesting that ecological processes also play an important role in shaping patterns of emergence. However, specific amino acid changes were associated with the parallel emergence of RABV in ferret-badgers in Asia, and some host shifts were associated with increases in evolutionary rate, particularly in the ferret-badger and mongoose, implying that changes in host species can have important impacts on evolutionary dynamics.
Author Summary
Zoonoses account for most recently emerged infectious diseases of humans, although little is known about the evolutionary mechanisms involved in cross-species virus transmission. Understanding the evolutionary patterns and processes that underpin such cross-species transmission is of importance for predicting the spread of zoonotic infections, and hence to their ultimate control. We present a large-scale and detailed reconstruction of the evolutionary history of rabies virus (RABV) in domestic and wildlife animal species. RABV is of particular interest as it is capable of infecting many mammals but, paradoxically, is only maintained in distinct epidemiological cycles associated with animal species from the orders Carnivora and Chiroptera. We show that bat-related RABV and dog-related RABV have experienced very different evolutionary dynamics, and that host jumps are sometimes characterized by significant increases in evolutionary rate. Among Carnivora, the association between RABV and particular host species most likely arose from a combination of the historical human-mediated spread of the virus and jumps into new primary host species. In addition, we show that changes in host species are associated with multiple evolutionary pathways including the occurrence of host-specific parallel evolution. Overall, our data indicate that the establishment of dog-related RABV in new carnivore hosts may only require subtle adaptive evolution.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1006041
PMCID: PMC5158080  PMID: 27977811
2.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002365
PMCID: PMC3749974  PMID: 23991230
3.  High Diversity of Rabies Viruses Associated with Insectivorous Bats in Argentina: Presence of Several Independent Enzootics 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001635
PMCID: PMC3348165  PMID: 22590657
4.  Bioecological Drivers of Rabies Virus Circulation in a Neotropical Bat Community 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(1):e0004378.
Introduction
In addition to the commonly accepted importance of the vampire bat in the maintenance and transmission of the rabies virus (RABV) in South America, RABV infection of other species is widely evidenced, challenging their role in the viral cycle.
Methodology / Principles findings
To identify the bioecological drivers of RABV circulation in neotropical bat communities, we conducted a molecular and serological survey on almost 1,000 bats from 30 species, and a 4-year longitudinal survey in two colonies of vampire bats in French Guiana. RABV was molecularly detected in a common vampire and in a frugivorous bat. The sequences corresponded to haematophagous bat-related strains and were close to viruses circulating in the Brazilian Amazon region. Species’ seroprevalence ranged from 0 to 20%, and the risk of seropositivity was higher in bats with a haematophagous diet, living in monospecific colonies and in dense forests. The longitudinal survey showed substantial temporal fluctuations, with individual waves of seroconversions and waning immunity. The high prevalences observed in bat communities, in most habitats and in species that do not share the same microhabitats and bioecological patterns, the temporal variations, and a rather short period of detectable antibodies as observed in recaptured vampires suggest (i) frequent exposure of animals, (ii) an ability of the infected host to control and eliminate the virus, (iii) more relaxed modes of exposure between bats than the commonly assumed infection via direct contact with saliva of infected animals, all of which should be further investigated.
Conclusions / significance
We hypothesize that RABV circulation in French Guiana is mainly maintained in the pristine forest habitats that may provide sufficient food resources to allow vampire bats, the main prevalent species, to survive and RABV to be propagated. However, on the forest edge and in disturbed areas, human activities may induce more insidious effects such as defaunation. One of the ecological consequences is the disappearance of resources for tertiary or secondary consumers. Populations of vampires may then shift to alternative resources such as cattle, domestic animals and humans. Therefore, a good forest status, allowing both a dilution effect in highly rich bat communities and the maintenance of large populations of medium-sized and large mammals used as prey by vampires, should prevent their migration to anthropized areas.
Author Summary
The vampire bat is known to be the main reservoir of the rabies virus (RABV) in South America. Nevertheless, other bat species are implicated in the cycle of the virus. Indeed, seven genus-specific rabies lineages have been described in insectivorous bats in Brazil. In French Guiana, we looked for the presence of the virus in a large number of bats, belonging to 30 different species. We found a high rate of seropositive animals, mainly haematophagous bats, and in those living in monospecific colonies and in forest habitats. We also monitored two colonies of vampire bats over a 4-year period and found that some animals became seropositive for the RABV, while others, after being seropositive, were able to become seronegative. These data first of all demonstrate that the virus widely circulates in bat communities with transmission occurring via direct saliva contact with broken skin and mucosa at the intra-specific level in vampire bat species. Exposure of other bat species, including those that do not share the same microhabitat, occurs in all forest strata through modes of transmission that have yet to be determined. Secondly, these animals seem to be exposed regularly, and most of them have a great ability to control and eliminate the virus. Third, these results suggest that pristine forest habitats provide sufficient food resources for the survival of vampire bats and propagation of RABV. In contrast, in disturbed habitats, where resources are decreasing, the vampires might have to shift to alternative resources such as cattle, domestic animals or even human beings. Altogether, the risk of rabies virus transmission may increase on the edge between forest and anthropized areas.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004378
PMCID: PMC4726525  PMID: 26808820
5.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001001
PMCID: PMC3071360  PMID: 21483707
6.  Spatio-temporal Analysis of the Genetic Diversity of Arctic Rabies Viruses and Their Reservoir Hosts in Greenland 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(7):e0004779.
There has been limited knowledge on spatio-temporal epidemiology of zoonotic arctic fox rabies among countries bordering the Arctic, in particular Greenland. Previous molecular epidemiological studies have suggested the occurrence of one particular arctic rabies virus (RABV) lineage (arctic-3), but have been limited by a low number of available samples preventing in-depth high resolution phylogenetic analysis of RABVs at that time. However, an improved knowledge of the evolution, at a molecular level, of the circulating RABVs and a better understanding of the historical perspective of the disease in Greenland is necessary for better direct control measures on the island. These issues have been addressed by investigating the spatio-temporal genetic diversity of arctic RABVs and their reservoir host, the arctic fox, in Greenland using both full and partial genome sequences. Using a unique set of 79 arctic RABV full genome sequences from Greenland, Canada, USA (Alaska) and Russia obtained between 1977 and 2014, a description of the historic context in relation to the genetic diversity of currently circulating RABV in Greenland and neighboring Canadian Northern territories has been provided. The phylogenetic analysis confirmed delineation into four major arctic RABV lineages (arctic 1–4) with viruses from Greenland exclusively grouping into the circumpolar arctic-3 lineage. High resolution analysis enabled distinction of seven geographically distinct subclades (3.I – 3.VII) with two subclades containing viruses from both Greenland and Canada. By combining analysis of full length RABV genome sequences and host derived sequences encoding mitochondrial proteins obtained simultaneously from brain tissues of 49 arctic foxes, the interaction of viruses and their hosts was explored in detail. Such an approach can serve as a blueprint for analysis of infectious disease dynamics and virus-host interdependencies. The results showed a fine-scale spatial population structure in Greenland arctic foxes based on mitochondrial sequences, but provided no evidence for independent isolated evolutionary development of RABV in different arctic fox lineages. These data are invaluable to support future initiatives for arctic fox rabies control and elimination in Greenland.
Author Summary
Next to dog-mediated rabies, wildlife rabies continues to pose a public health problem, particularly in the northern hemisphere. Control of this zoonosis at the animal source has been proven the most efficient route to reduction of human rabies burden. Successful elimination of red fox-mediated rabies in Western Europe and parts of North America has demonstrated the viability of wildlife rabies control strategies. In some regions, the epidemiology of wildlife rabies is well understood; this is not the case for arctic rabies, particularly in Greenland. Previous molecular epidemiological studies demonstrated the occurrence of one particular arctic rabies virus (RABV) lineage (arctic-3) but were limited by low sample numbers and limited sequence length so as to preclude generation of high resolution phylogenetic analysis. Here, a unique set comprised of 79 complete genome sequences of RABVs from Greenland, Canada, USA (Alaska) and Russia collected over the past four decades was analysed. The use of next generation sequencing (NGS) allowed simultaneous determination of host derived sequences encoding mitochondrial proteins from the same brain tissue of 49 arctic foxes. These sequence data combined with geographical and temporal information permit the study of the genetic diversity and evolution of circulating RABVs in Greenland against the background of reservoir host genetics. The results reveal the existence of a single arctic RABV lineage (arctic-3) in Greenland, which has evolved into multiple distinct variants. These analyses provide an improved knowledge of the evolution of the circulating viruses at the molecular level and a better understanding of the historical perspective of the disease in Greenland compared to other parts of the Arctic. This knowledge will support policy on rabies control in mammalian wildlife reservoirs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004779
PMCID: PMC4961414  PMID: 27459154
7.  Bat Rabies in Guatemala 
Rabies in bats is considered enzootic throughout the New World, but few comparative data are available for most countries in the region. As part of a larger pathogen detection program, enhanced bat rabies surveillance was conducted in Guatemala, between 2009 and 2011. A total of 672 bats of 31 species were sampled and tested for rabies. The prevalence of rabies virus (RABV) detection among all collected bats was low (0.3%). Viral antigens were detected and infectious virus was isolated from the brains of two common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus). RABV was also isolated from oral swabs, lungs and kidneys of both bats, whereas viral RNA was detected in all of the tissues examined by hemi-nested RT-PCR except for the liver of one bat. Sequencing of the nucleoprotein gene showed that both viruses were 100% identical, whereas sequencing of the glycoprotein gene revealed one non-synonymous substitution (302T,S). The two vampire bat RABV isolates in this study were phylogenetically related to viruses associated with vampire bats in the eastern states of Mexico and El Salvador. Additionally, 7% of sera collected from 398 bats demonstrated RABV neutralizing antibody. The proportion of seropositive bats varied significantly across trophic guilds, suggestive of complex intraspecific compartmentalization of RABV perpetuation.
Author Summary
In this study we provide results of the first active and extensive surveillance effort for rabies virus (RABV) circulation among bats in Guatemala. The survey included multiple geographic areas and multiple species of bats, to assess the broader public and veterinary health risks associated with rabies in bats in Guatemala. RABV was isolated from vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) collected in two different locations in Guatemala. Sequencing of the isolates revealed a closer relationship to Mexican and Central American vampire bat isolates than to South American isolates. The detection of RABV neutralizing antibodies in 11 species, including insectivorous, frugivorous, and sanguivorous bats, demonstrates viral circulation in both hematophagous and non-hematophagous bat species in Guatemala. The presence of bat RABV in rural communities requires new strategies for public health education regarding contact with bats, improved laboratory-based surveillance of animals associated with human exposures, and novel techniques for modern rabies prevention and control. Additionally, healthcare practitioners should emphasize the collection of a detailed medical history, including questions regarding bat exposure, for patients presenting with clinical syndromes compatible with rabies or any clinically diagnosed progressive encephalitis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003070
PMCID: PMC4117473  PMID: 25080103
8.  Genetic and evolutionary characterization of RABVs from China using the phosphoprotein gene 
Virology Journal  2013;10:14.
Background
While the function of the phosphoprotein (P) gene of the rabies virus (RABV) has been well studied in laboratory adapted RABVs, the genetic diversity and evolution characteristics of the P gene of street RABVs remain unclear. The objective of the present study was to investigate the mutation and evolution of P genes in Chinese street RABVs.
Results
The P gene of 77 RABVs from brain samples of dogs and wild animals collected in eight Chinese provinces through 2003 to 2008 were sequenced. The open reading frame (ORF) of the P genes was 894 nucleotides (nt) in length, with 85-99% (80-89%) amino acid (nucleotide) identity compared with the laboratory RABVs and vaccine strains. Phylogenetic analysis based on the P gene revealed that Chinese RABVs strains could be divided into two distinct clades, and several RABV variants were found to co circulating in the same province. Two conserved (CD1, 2) and two variable (VD1, 2) domains were identified by comparing the deduced primary sequences of the encoded P proteins. Two sequence motifs, one believed to confer binding to the cytoplasmic dynein light chain LC8 and a lysine-rich sequence were conserved throughout the Chinese RABVs. In contrast, the isolates exhibited lower conservation of one phosphate acceptor and one internal translation initiation site identified in the P protein of the rabies challenge virus standard (CVS) strain. Bayesian coalescent analysis showed that the P gene in Chinese RABVs have a substitution rate (3.305x10-4 substitutions per site per year) and evolution history (592 years ago) similar to values for the glycoprotein (G) and nucleoprotein (N) reported previously.
Conclusion
Several substitutions were found in the P gene of Chinese RABVs strains compared to the laboratory adapted and vaccine strains, whether these variations could affect the biological characteristics of Chinese RABVs need to be further investigated. The substitution rate and evolution history of P gene is similar to G and N gene, combine the topology of phylogenetic tree based on the P gene is similar to the G and N gene trees, indicate that the P, G and N genes are equally valid for examining the phylogenetics of RABVs.
doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-14
PMCID: PMC3548735  PMID: 23294868
Rabies virus; Phosphoprotein gene; Genetic diversity; Molecular evolution
9.  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.
Background
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.
Findings
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-32
PMCID: PMC3285087  PMID: 22243739
10.  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.
doi:10.1099/vir.0.020073-0
PMCID: PMC3052523  PMID: 20519458
11.  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.
doi:10.3201/eid1909.130083
PMCID: PMC3810916
rabies; molecular epidemiology; bats; Peru; viruses; zoonoses; vampire bats
12.  Phylodynamics of vampire bat-transmitted rabies in Argentina 
Molecular ecology  2014;23(9):2340-2352.
Common vampire bat populations distributed from Mexico to Argentina are important rabies reservoir hosts in Latin America. The aim of this work was to analyse the population structure of the rabies virus (RABV) variants associated with vampire bats in the Americas and to study their phylodynamic pattern within Argentina. The phylogenetic analysis based on all available vampire bat-related N gene sequences showed both a geographical and a temporal structure. The two largest groups of RABV variants from Argentina were isolated from northwestern Argentina and from the central western zone of northeastern Argentina, corresponding to livestock areas with different climatic, topographic and biogeographical conditions, which determined their dissemination and evolutionary patterns. In addition, multiple introductions of the infection into Argentina, possibly from Brazil, were detected. The phylodynamic analysis suggests that RABV transmission dynamics is characterized by initial epizootic waves followed by local enzootic cycles with variable persistence. Anthropogenic interventions in the ecosystem should be assessed taking into account not only the environmental impact but also the potential risk of disease spreading through dissemination of current RABV lineages or the emergence of novel ones associated with vampire bats.
doi:10.1111/mec.12728
PMCID: PMC4870601  PMID: 24661865
Argentina; phylodynamics; phylogeography; rabies virus; vampire bats
13.  Molecular epidemiological tracing of a cattle rabies outbreak lasting less than a month in Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil 
BMC Research Notes  2016;9:87.
Background
Vampire bat-transmitted cattle rabies cases are typically encountered in areas where the disease is endemic. However, over the period of a month in 2009, an outbreak of cattle rabies occurred and then ended spontaneously in a small area of the Rio Grande do Sul State in southern Brazil. To investigate the epidemiological characteristics of this rabies outbreak in Rio Grande do Sul, 26 nucleotide sequences of rabies virus (RABV) genomes that were collected in this area were analyzed phylogenetically.
Results
Nucleotide sequence identities of the nucleoprotein gene and G–L intergenic region of the 26 RABVs were greater than 99.6 %. Phylogenetic analysis showed that all RABVs clustered with the vampire bat-related cattle RABV strains and that the RABVs were mainly distributed in southern Brazil.
Conclusions
The findings of the present study suggested that a small population of rabid vampire bats carrying a single RABV strain produced a spatiotemporally restricted outbreak of cattle rabies in southern Brazil.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13104-016-1898-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13104-016-1898-5
PMCID: PMC4751707  PMID: 26868014
Brazil; Cattle rabies; Molecular epidemiology; Vampire bat
14.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002560
PMCID: PMC3836727  PMID: 24278494
15.  Susceptibility and Pathogenesis of Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) to Heterologous and Homologous Rabies Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(16):9008-9015.
Rabies virus (RABV) maintenance in bats is not well understood. Big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), and Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) are the most common bats species in the United States. These colonial bat species also have the most frequent contact with humans and domestic animals. However, the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) RABV is associated with the majority of human rabies virus infections in the United States and Canada. This is of interest because silver-haired bats are more solitary bats with infrequent human interaction. Our goal was to determine the likelihood of a colonial bat species becoming infected with and transmitting a heterologous RABV. To ascertain the potential of heterologous RABV infection in colonial bat species, little brown bats were inoculated with a homologous RABV or one of two heterologous RABVs. Additionally, to determine if the route of exposure influenced the disease process, bats were inoculated either intramuscularly (i.m.) or subcutaneously (s.c.) with a homologous or heterologous RABV. Our results demonstrate that intramuscular inoculation results in a more rapid progression of disease onset, whereas the incubation time in bats inoculated s.c. is significantly longer. Additionally, cross protection was not consistently achieved in bats previously inoculated with a heterologous RABV following a challenge with a homologous RABV 6 months later. Finally, bats that developed rabies following s.c. inoculation were significantly more likely to shed virus in their saliva and demonstrated increased viral dissemination. In summary, bats inoculated via the s.c. route are more likely to shed virus, thus increasing the likelihood of transmission.
doi:10.1128/JVI.03554-12
PMCID: PMC3754046  PMID: 23741002
16.  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.
doi:10.1007/s00705-015-2424-0
PMCID: PMC4429142  PMID: 25877913
17.  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.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01665-09
PMCID: PMC2812392  PMID: 19955305
18.  Community Survey after Rabies Outbreaks, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(6):932-938.
Educational outreach should inform the public about dangers of translocation of wild animals and general aspects of rabies.
Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, experienced notable outbreaks of rabies caused by a bat rabies virus variant in carnivore species in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009. The most recent epizootic involved transmission among skunk and fox populations and human exposures. Multiple, wide-ranging control efforts and health communications outreach were instituted in 2009, including a household survey given to community members. Although the Flagstaff community is knowledgeable about rabies and the ongoing outbreaks in general, gaps in knowledge about routes of exposure and potential hosts remain. Future educational efforts should include messages on the dangers of animal translocation and a focus on veterinarians and physicians as valuable sources for outreach. These results will be useful to communities experiencing rabies outbreaks as well as those at current risk.
doi:10.3201/eid1806.111172
PMCID: PMC3358150  PMID: 22607999
rabies virus; lyssavirus; rabies; health knowledge; attitudes; practice; outbreak; epizootic; community survey; viruses; zoonosis; Arizona; United States; USA; translocation; wild animals; wildlife; education
19.  Rabies Virus Hijacks and Accelerates the p75NTR Retrograde Axonal Transport Machinery 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(8):e1004348.
Rabies virus (RABV) is a neurotropic virus that depends on long distance axonal transport in order to reach the central nervous system (CNS). The strategy RABV uses to hijack the cellular transport machinery is still not clear. It is thought that RABV interacts with membrane receptors in order to internalize and exploit the endosomal trafficking pathway, yet this has never been demonstrated directly. The p75 Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) receptor (p75NTR) binds RABV Glycoprotein (RABV-G) with high affinity. However, as p75NTR is not essential for RABV infection, the specific role of this interaction remains in question. Here we used live cell imaging to track RABV entry at nerve terminals and studied its retrograde transport along the axon with and without the p75NTR receptor. First, we found that NGF, an endogenous p75NTR ligand, and RABV, are localized in corresponding domains along nerve tips. RABV and NGF were internalized at similar time frames, suggesting comparable entry machineries. Next, we demonstrated that RABV could internalize together with p75NTR. Characterizing RABV retrograde movement along the axon, we showed the virus is transported in acidic compartments, mostly with p75NTR. Interestingly, RABV is transported faster than NGF, suggesting that RABV not only hijacks the transport machinery but can also manipulate it. Co-transport of RABV and NGF identified two modes of transport, slow and fast, that may represent a differential control of the trafficking machinery by RABV. Finally, we determined that p75NTR-dependent transport of RABV is faster and more directed than p75NTR-independent RABV transport. This fast route to the neuronal cell body is characterized by both an increase in instantaneous velocities and fewer, shorter stops en route. Hence, RABV may employ p75NTR-dependent transport as a fast mechanism to facilitate movement to the CNS.
Author Summary
Rabies virus (RABV) is a neurotropic virus that depends on long distance axonal transport in order to reach the central nervous system (CNS). The strategy RABV uses to hijack the cellular transport machinery is unknown. Here we use live cell imaging to track RABV entry at nerve terminals and study its retrograde transport along the axon. First, we demonstrate that RABV interacts with the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) at peripheral neuron tips to enter the axon. Then, characterizing RABV retrograde transport along the axon, we showed that the virus moves in acidic compartments, mostly with p75NTR. Interestingly, RABV is transported faster than NGF, an endogenous p75NTR ligand. Finally, we determine that p75NTR-dependent transport of RABV is faster and more directed than p75NTR-independent RABV transport. Hence, RABV not only exploits the neurotrophin transport machinery, but also has a positive influence on transport kinetics, thus facilitating its own arrival at the CNS.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004348
PMCID: PMC4148448  PMID: 25165859
20.  Epidemiology of vampire bat-transmitted rabies virus in Goiás, central Brazil: re-evaluation based on G-L intergenic region 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:288.
Background
Vampire bat related rabies harms both livestock industry and public health sector in central Brazil. The geographical distributions of vampire bat-transmitted rabies virus variants are delimited by mountain chains. These findings were elucidated by analyzing a high conserved nucleoprotein gene. This study aims to elucidate the detailed epidemiological characters of vampire bat-transmitted rabies virus by phylogenetic methods based on 619-nt sequence including unconserved G-L intergenic region.
Findings
The vampire bat-transmitted rabies virus isolates divided into 8 phylogenetic lineages in the previous nucleoprotein gene analysis were divided into 10 phylogenetic lineages with significant bootstrap values. The distributions of most variants were reconfirmed to be delimited by mountain chains. Furthermore, variants in undulating areas have narrow distributions and are apparently separated by mountain ridges.
Conclusions
This study demonstrates that the 619-nt sequence including G-L intergenic region is more useful for a state-level phylogenetic analysis of rabies virus than the partial nucleoprotein gene, and simultaneously that the distribution of vampire bat-transmitted RABV variants tends to be separated not only by mountain chains but also by mountain ridges, thus suggesting that the diversity of vampire bat-transmitted RABV variants was delimited by geographical undulations.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-288
PMCID: PMC2993726  PMID: 21059233
21.  Diagnosis and molecular characterization of rabies virus from a buffalo in China: a case report 
Virology Journal  2011;8:101.
Background
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1743-422X-8-101
PMCID: PMC3061937  PMID: 21375773
22.  Overwintering of Rabies Virus in Silver Haired Bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(5):e0155542.
Silver-haired bats, (Lasionycteris noctivagans) are semi-colonial, migratory tree bats that have infrequent contact with humans. Despite the species rarity, the L. noctivagans rabies variant is the most commonly reported rabies virus variant (RABV) in domestically acquired human rabies cases in the US. Unlike big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), L. noctivagans are not considered true hibernators. It is unknown if RABV can overwinter in hibernating L. noctivagans or is only maintained in members of this taxa that migrate to warmer climates. To better understand RABV overwintering in this species, L. noctivagans were inoculated intramuscularly with either a homologous RABV (L. noctivagans Virus 1) or one of two heterologous RABV (Eptesicus fuscus Virus 2 and Myotis lucifugus Virus 1). Five days following inoculation, L. noctivagans were placed in a hibernation chamber for 6 weeks. Our results demonstrate that rabies virus can overwinter in L. noctivagans yet the incubation period was extended 6 weeks when compared to bats maintained at ambient temperatures. Additionally, we found that the longer the incubation period, the greater the viral dissemination to the salivary glands. Similar to our previous studies, L. noctivagans were most susceptible to a homologous variant. In summary, we found that RABV incubation is extended following a subcutaneous exposure or maintenance in hibernation and longer incubation times increase dissemination and potential for transmission.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155542
PMCID: PMC4873251  PMID: 27195489
23.  Rabies Virus Infection in Eptesicus fuscus Bats Born in Captivity (Naïve Bats) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64808.
The study of rabies virus infection in bats can be challenging due to quarantine requirements, husbandry concerns, genetic differences among animals, and lack of medical history. To date, all rabies virus (RABV) studies in bats have been performed in wild caught animals. Determining the RABV exposure history of a wild caught bat based on the presence or absence of viral neutralizing antibodies (VNA) may be misleading. Previous studies have demonstrated that the presence of VNA following natural or experimental inoculation is often ephemeral. With this knowledge, it is difficult to determine if a seronegative, wild caught bat has been previously exposed to RABV. The influence of prior rabies exposure in healthy, wild caught bats is unknown. To investigate the pathogenesis of RABV infection in bats born in captivity (naïve bats), naïve bats were inoculated intramuscularly with one of two Eptesicus fuscus rabies virus variants, EfV1 or EfV2. To determine the host response to a heterologous RABV, a separate group of naïve bats were inoculated with a Lasionycteris noctivagans RABV (LnV1). Six months following the first inoculation, all bats were challenged with EfV2. Our results indicate that naïve bats may have some level of innate resistance to intramuscular RABV inoculation. Additionally, naïve bats inoculated with the LnV demonstrated the lowest clinical infection rate of all groups. However, primary inoculation with EfV1 or LnV did not appear to be protective against a challenge with the more pathogenic EfV2.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064808
PMCID: PMC3669413  PMID: 23741396
24.  Enhancement of Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability and Reduction of Tight Junction Protein Expression Are Modulated by Chemokines/Cytokines Induced by Rabies Virus Infection 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(9):4698-4710.
ABSTRACT
Infection with laboratory-attenuated rabies virus (RABV) enhances blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability, which has been demonstrated to be an important factor for host survival, since it allows immune effectors to enter the central nervous system (CNS) and clear RABV. To probe the mechanism by which RABV infection enhances BBB permeability, the expression of tight junction (TJ) proteins in the CNS was investigated following intracranial inoculation with laboratory-attenuated or wild-type (wt) RABV. BBB permeability was significantly enhanced in mice infected with laboratory-attenuated, but not wt, RABV. The expression levels of TJ proteins (claudin-5, occludin, and zonula occludens-1) were decreased in mice infected with laboratory-attenuated, but not wt, RABV, suggesting that enhancement of BBB permeability is associated with the reduction of TJ protein expression in RABV infection. RABV neither infects the brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs) nor modulates the expression of TJ proteins in BMECs. However, brain extracts prepared from mice infected with laboratory-attenuated, but not wt, RABV reduced TJ protein expression in BMECs. It was found that brain extracts from mice infected with laboratory-attenuated RABV contained significantly higher levels of inflammatory chemokines/cytokines than those from mice infected with wt RABV. Pathway analysis indicates that gamma interferon (IFN-γ) is located in the center of the cytokine network in the RABV-infected mouse brain, and neutralization of IFN-γ reduced both the disruption of BBB permeability in vivo and the downregulation of TJ protein expression in vitro. These findings indicate that the enhancement of BBB permeability and the reduction of TJ protein expression are due not to RABV infection per se but to virus-induced inflammatory chemokines/cytokines.
IMPORTANCE Previous studies have shown that infection with only laboratory-attenuated, not wild-type, rabies virus (RABV) enhances blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability, allowing immune effectors to enter the central nervous system (CNS) and clear RABV from the CNS. This study investigated the mechanism by which RABV infection enhances BBB permeability. It was found that RABV infection enhances BBB permeability by downregulation of tight junction (TJ) protein expression in the brain microvasculature. It was further found that it is not RABV infection per se but the chemokines/cytokines induced by RABV infection that downregulate the expression of TJ proteins and enhance BBB permeability. Blocking some of these cytokines, such as IFN-γ, ameliorated both the disruption of BBB permeability and the downregulation of TJ protein expression. These studies may provide a foundation for developing therapeutics for clinical rabies, such as medication that could be used to enhance BBB permeability.
doi:10.1128/JVI.03149-13
PMCID: PMC3993813  PMID: 24522913
25.  Rhabdovirus-Based Vaccine Platforms against Henipaviruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;89(1):144-154.
ABSTRACT
The emerging zoonotic pathogens Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV) are in the genus Henipavirus in the family Paramyxoviridae. HeV and NiV infections can be highly fatal to humans and livestock. The goal of this study was to develop candidate vaccines against henipaviruses utilizing two well-established rhabdoviral vaccine vector platforms, recombinant rabies virus (RABV) and recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), expressing either the codon-optimized or the wild-type (wt) HeV glycoprotein (G) gene. The RABV vector expressing the codon-optimized HeV G showed a 2- to 3-fold increase in incorporation compared to the RABV vector expressing wt HeV G. There was no significant difference in HeV G incorporation in the VSV vectors expressing either wt or codon-optimized HeV G. Mice inoculated intranasally with any of these live recombinant viruses showed no signs of disease, including weight loss, indicating that HeV G expression and incorporation did not increase the neurotropism of the vaccine vectors. To test the immunogenicity of the vaccine candidates, we immunized mice intramuscularly with either one dose of the live vaccines or 3 doses of 10 μg chemically inactivated viral particles. Increased codon-optimized HeV G incorporation into RABV virions resulted in higher antibody titers against HeV G compared to inactivated RABV virions expressing wt HeV G. The live VSV vectors induced more HeV G-specific antibodies as well as higher levels of HeV neutralizing antibodies than the RABV vectors. In the case of killed particles, HeV neutralizing serum titers were very similar between the two platforms. These results indicated that killed RABV with codon-optimized HeV G should be the vector of choice as a dual vaccine in areas where rabies is endemic.
IMPORTANCE Scientists have been tracking two new viruses carried by the Pteropid fruit bats: Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV). Both viruses can be fatal to humans and also pose a serious risk to domestic animals. A recent escalation in the frequency of outbreaks has increased the need for a vaccine that prevents HeV and NiV infections. In this study, we performed an extensive comparison of live and killed particles of two recombinant rhabdoviral vectors, rabies virus and vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), expressing wild-type or codon-optimized HeV glycoprotein, with the goal of developing a candidate vaccine against HeV. Based on our data from the presented mouse immunogenicity studies, we conclude that a killed RABV vaccine would be highly effective against HeV infections and would make an excellent vaccine candidate in areas where both RABV and henipaviruses pose a threat to human health.
doi:10.1128/JVI.02308-14
PMCID: PMC4301098  PMID: 25320306

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