In Germany, rabies in bats is a notifiable zoonotic disease, which is caused by European bat lyssaviruses type 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and 2), and the recently discovered new lyssavirus species Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV). As the understanding of bat rabies in insectivorous bat species is limited, in addition to routine bat rabies diagnosis, an enhanced passive surveillance study, i.e. the retrospective investigation of dead bats that had not been tested for rabies, was initiated in 1998 to study the distribution, abundance and epidemiology of lyssavirus infections in bats from Germany. A total number of 5478 individuals representing 21 bat species within two families were included in this study. The Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) and the Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) represented the most specimens submitted. Of all investigated bats, 1.17% tested positive for lyssaviruses using the fluorescent antibody test (FAT). The vast majority of positive cases was identified as EBLV-1, predominately associated with the Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus). However, rabies cases in other species, i.e. Nathusius' pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), P. pipistrellus and Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) were also characterized as EBLV-1. In contrast, EBLV-2 was isolated from three Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii). These three cases contribute significantly to the understanding of EBLV-2 infections in Germany as only one case had been reported prior to this study. This enhanced passive surveillance indicated that besides known reservoir species, further bat species are affected by lyssavirus infections. Given the increasing diversity of lyssaviruses and bats as reservoir host species worldwide, lyssavirus positive specimens, i.e. both bat and virus need to be confirmed by molecular techniques.
According to the World Health Organization rabies is considered both a neglected zoonotic and a tropical disease. The causative agents are lyssaviruses which have their primary reservoir in bats. Although bat rabies is notifiable in Germany, the number of submitted bats during routine surveillance is rarely representative of the natural bat population. Therefore, the aim of this study was to include dead bats from various sources for enhanced bat rabies surveillance. The results show that a considerable number of additional bat rabies cases can be detected, thus improving the knowledge on the frequency, geographical distribution and reservoir-association of bat lyssavirus infections in Germany. The overall proportion of positives was lower than during routine surveillance in Germany. While the majority of cases were found in the Serotine bat and characterized as European bat lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1), three of the four EBLV-2 infections detected in Germany were found in Myotis daubentonii during this study.
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.
EBLV; Lyssavirus; Rabies; Seroprevalence
Background and objectives
Bats are recognized as a major reservoir of lyssaviruses; however, no bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Asia except for Aravan and Khujand virus in Central Asia. All Chinese lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been of species rabies virus, mainly from dogs. Following at least two recent bat-associated human rabies-like cases in northeast China, we have initiated a study of the prevalence of lyssaviruses in bats in Jilin province and their public health implications. A bat lyssavirus has been isolated and its pathogenicity in mice and genomic alignment have been determined.
We report the first isolation of a bat lyssavirus in China, from the brain of a northeastern bat, Murina leucogaster. Its nucleoprotein gene shared 92.4%/98.9% (nucleotide) and 92.2%/98.8% (amino acid) identity with the two known Irkut virus isolates from Russia, and was designated IRKV-THChina12. Following intracranial and intramuscular injection, IRKV-THChina12 produced rabies-like symptoms in adult mice with a short inoculation period and high mortality. Nucleotide sequence analysis showed that IRKV-THChina12 has the same genomic organization as other lyssaviruses and its isolation provides an independent origin for the species IRKV.
We have identified the existence of a bat lyssavirus in a common Chinese bat species. Its high pathogenicity in adult mice suggests that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
The Lyssavirus genus presently comprises 12 species and two unapproved species with different antigenic characteristics. Rabies virus is detectable worldwide; Lagos bat virus, Mokola virus, Duvenhage virus, Shimoni bat virus, and Ikoma lyssavirus circulate in Africa; European bat lyssavirus types 1 and 2, Irkut virus, West Caucasian bat virus, and Bokeloh bat lyssavirus are found in Europe; and Australian bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Australia. Only Aravan and Khujand viruses have been identified in central Asia. Bats are recognized as the most important reservoirs of lyssaviruses. In China, all lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been rabies virus, mainly from dogs; none has been from bats. Recently, however, at least two bat-associated human rabies or rabies-like cases have been reported in northeast China. Therefore, we conducted a search for bat lyssaviruses in Jilin province, close to where the first bat-associated human rabies case was recorded. We isolated a bat lyssavirus, identified as an Irkut virus isolate with high pathogenicity in experimental mice. Our findings suggest that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance should be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
During lyssavirus surveillance, 1,221 bats of at least 30 species were collected from 25 locations in Kenya. One isolate of Lagos bat virus (LBV) was obtained from a dead Eidolon helvum fruit bat. The virus was most similar phylogenetically to LBV isolates from Senegal (1985) and from France (imported from Togo or Egypt; 1999), sharing with these viruses 100% nucleoprotein identity and 99.8 to 100% glycoprotein identity. This genome conservancy across space and time suggests that LBV is well adapted to its natural host species and that populations of reservoir hosts in eastern and western Africa have sufficient interactions to share pathogens. High virus concentrations, in addition to being detected in the brain, were detected in the salivary glands and tongue and in an oral swab, suggesting that LBV is transmitted in the saliva. In other extraneural organs, the virus was generally associated with innervations and ganglia. The presence of infectious virus in the reproductive tract and in a vaginal swab implies an alternative opportunity for transmission. The isolate was pathogenic for laboratory mice by the intracerebral and intramuscular routes. Serologic screening demonstrated the presence of LBV-neutralizing antibodies in E. helvum and Rousettus aegyptiacus fruit bats. In different colonies the seroprevalence ranged from 40 to 67% and 29 to 46% for E. helvum and R. aegyptiacus, respectively. Nested reverse transcription-PCR did not reveal the presence of viral RNA in oral swabs of bats in the absence of brain infection. Several large bat roosts were identified in areas of dense human populations, raising public health concerns for the potential of lyssavirus infection.
Genotype 5 lyssaviruses are endemic in the Netherlands, and can cause fatal infections in humans.
To study European bat lyssavirus (EBLV) in bat reservoirs in the Netherlands, native bats have been tested for rabies since 1984. For all collected bats, data including species, age, sex, and date and location found were recorded. A total of 1,219 serotine bats, Eptesicus serotinus, were tested, and 251 (21%) were positive for lyssavirus antigen. Five (4%) of 129 specimens from the pond bat, Myotis dasycneme, were positive. Recently detected EBLV RNA segments encoding the nucleoprotein were sequenced and analyzed phylogenetically (45 specimens). All recent serotine bat specimens clustered with genotype 5 (EBLV1) sequences, and homologies within subgenotypes EBLV1a and EBLV1b were 99.0%–100% and 99.2%–100%, respectively. Our findings indicate that EBLVs of genotype 5 are endemic in the serotine bat in the Netherlands. Since EBLVs can cause fatal infections in humans, all serotine and pond bats involved in contact incidents should be tested to determine whether the victim was exposed to EBLVs.
EBLV; lyssavirus; the Netherlands; bat; Eptesicus serotinus; Myotis dasycneme; Europe; research
In nature, rabies virus (RABV; genus Lyssavirus, family Rhabdoviridae) represents an assemblage of phylogenetic lineages, associated with specific mammalian host species. Although it is generally accepted that RABV evolved originally in bats and further shifted to carnivores, mechanisms of such host shifts are poorly understood, and examples are rarely present in surveillance data. Outbreaks in carnivores caused by a RABV variant, associated with big brown bats, occurred repeatedly during 2001–2009 in the Flagstaff area of Arizona. After each outbreak, extensive control campaigns were undertaken, with no reports of further rabies cases in carnivores for the next several years. However, questions remained whether all outbreaks were caused by a single introduction and further perpetuation of bat RABV in carnivore populations, or each outbreak was caused by an independent introduction of a bat virus. Another question of concern was related to adaptive changes in the RABV genome associated with host shifts. To address these questions, we sequenced and analyzed 66 complete and 20 nearly complete RABV genomes, including those from the Flagstaff area and other similar outbreaks in carnivores, caused by bat RABVs, and representatives of the major RABV lineages circulating in North America and worldwide. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that each Flagstaff outbreak was caused by an independent introduction of bat RABV into populations of carnivores. Positive selection analysis confirmed the absence of post-shift changes in RABV genes. In contrast, convergent evolution analysis demonstrated several amino acids in the N, P, G and L proteins, which might be significant for pre-adaptation of bat viruses to cause effective infection in carnivores. The substitution S/T242 in the viral glycoprotein is of particular merit, as a similar substitution was suggested for pathogenicity of Nishigahara RABV strain. Roles of the amino acid changes, detected in our study, require additional investigations, using reverse genetics and other approaches.
Host shifts of the rabies virus (RABV) from bats to carnivores are important for our understanding of viral evolution and emergence, and have significant public health implications, particularly for the areas where “terrestrial” rabies has been eliminated. In this study we addressed several rabies outbreaks in carnivores that occurred in the Flagstaff area of Arizona during 2001–2009, and caused by the RABV variant associated with big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). Based on phylogenetic analysis we demonstrated that each outbreak resulted from a separate introduction of bat RABV into populations of carnivores. No post-shift changes in viral genomes were detected under the positive selection analysis. Trying to answer the question why certain bat RABV variants are capable for host shifts to carnivores and other variants are not, we developed a convergent evolution analysis, and implemented it for multiple RABV lineages circulating worldwide. This analysis identified several amino acids in RABV proteins which may facilitate host shifts from bats to carnivores. Precise roles of these amino acids require additional investigations, using reverse genetics and animal experimentation. In general, our approach and the results obtained can be used for prediction of host shifts and emergence of other zoonotic pathogens.
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.
Active surveillance for lyssaviruses was conducted among populations of bats in the Philippines. The presence of past or current Lyssavirus infection was determined by use of direct fluorescent antibody assays on bat brains and virus neutralization assays on bat sera. Although no bats were found to have active infection with a Lyssavirus, 22 had evidence of neutralizing antibody against the Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV). Seropositivity was statistically associated with one species of bat, Miniopterus schreibersi. Results from the virus neutralization assays are consistent with the presence in the Philippines of a naturally occurring Lyssavirus related to ABLV.
rabies; Lyssavirus; Chiroptera; Philippines
The predominant role of Eptesicus serotinus in the epizootic of bat rabies in Europe was further outlined by the first isolation of the rabies virus from this species in France. The distribution of the virus was studied in naturally infected E. serotinus bats at the time of death and suggested that the papillae of the tongue and the respiratory mucosa may play a role in virus production and excretion. The analysis of 501 French rabies virus isolates from various animal species by antinucleocapsid monoclonal antibodies indicated that transmission of the disease from bats to terrestrial animals is unlikely. The antigenic profile of two isolates from French bats corresponded to that of European bat lyssavirus type 1 (EBL1). Comparisons of 12 different isolates from bats with antinucleocapsid and antiglycoprotein monoclonal antibodies and by direct sequencing of the polymerase chain reaction amplification product of the N gene indicated that EBL1, EBL2, Duvenhage virus (serotype 4 of lyssavirus), and the European fox rabies virus (serotype 1) are phylogenetically distant. They formed four tight genetic clusters named genotypes. EBL1 was shown to be antigenically and genetically more closely related to Duvenhage virus than to EBL2. We propose that EBL1 and EBL2 constitute two distinct genotypes which further serologic characterization will probably classify as new serotypes. We also report a simple method for the rapid characterization of EBL based on the digestion of the polymerase chain reaction product of the N gene by three restriction endonucleases.
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.
Lyssavirus; EBLV-2; seroprevalence; Daubenton bats; Scotland; research
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.
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.
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.
In 2001–2005 we sampled permanently marked big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) at summer roosts in buildings at Fort Collins, Colorado, for rabies virus neutralizing antibodies (RVNA). Seroprevalence was higher in adult females (17.9%, n = 2,332) than males (9.4%, n = 128; P = 0.007) or volant juveniles (10.2%, n = 738; P<0.0001). Seroprevalence was lowest in a drought year with local insecticide use and highest in the year with normal conditions, suggesting that environmental stress may suppress RVNA production in big brown bats. Seroprevalence also increased with age of bat, and varied from 6.2 to 26.7% among adult females at five roosts sampled each year for five years. Seroprevalence of adult females at 17 other roosts sampled for 1 to 4 years ranged from 0.0 to 47.1%. Using logistic regression, the only ranking model in our candidate set of explanatory variables for serological status at first sampling included year, day of season, and a year by day of season interaction that varied with relative drought conditions. The presence or absence of antibodies in individual bats showed temporal variability. Year alone provided the best model to explain the likelihood of adult female bats showing a transition to seronegative from a previously seropositive state. Day of the season was the only competitive model to explain the likelihood of a transition from seronegative to seropositive, which increased as the season progressed. We found no rabies viral RNA in oropharyngeal secretions of 261 seropositive bats or in organs of 13 euthanized seropositive bats. Survival of seropositive and seronegative bats did not differ. The presence of RVNA in serum of bats should not be interpreted as evidence for ongoing rabies infection.
In July and September 2007, miners working in Kitaka Cave, Uganda, were diagnosed with Marburg hemorrhagic fever. The likely source of infection in the cave was Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) based on detection of Marburg virus RNA in 31/611 (5.1%) bats, virus-specific antibody in bat sera, and isolation of genetically diverse virus from bat tissues. The virus isolates were collected nine months apart, demonstrating long-term virus circulation. The bat colony was estimated to be over 100,000 animals using mark and re-capture methods, predicting the presence of over 5,000 virus-infected bats. The genetically diverse virus genome sequences from bats and miners closely matched. These data indicate common Egyptian fruit bats can represent a major natural reservoir and source of Marburg virus with potential for spillover into humans.
Marburg virus, similar to its close cousin Ebola virus, can cause large outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever (HF) in rural Africa with case fatalities approaching 90%. For decades, a long-standing enigma has been the identity of the natural reservoir of this deadly virus. In this report, we identify the cave-dwelling Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) as a natural host of Marburg virus based on multiple lines of evidence which include, for the first time ever, the isolation of virus directly from wild-caught and apparently healthy bats. The species R. aegyptiacus is common throughout Africa with distribution into the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Our finding of active virus infection in approximately 5% of R. aegyptiacus bats and their population exceeding 100,000 in Kitaka cave in Uganda suggests there are likely over 5,000 Marburg virus–infected bats in this cave, which is only one of many such cave populations throughout Africa. Clearly, these bats could serve as a major source of virus with potential to initiate human epidemics, and the implications for public health are striking. Additionally, we found highly divergent (21%) genome sequences among viruses circulating in these bat populations, a level of diversity that would result from a long-term association with a suitable reservoir host of large population size.
The majority of rabies virus (RV) infections are caused by bites or scratches from rabid carnivores or bats. Usually, RV utilizes the retrograde transport within the neuronal network to spread from the infection site to the central nervous system (CNS) where it replicates in neuronal somata and infects other neurons via trans-synaptic spread. We speculate that in addition to the neuronal transport of the virus, hematogenous spread from the site of infection directly to the brain after accidental spill over into the vascular system might represent an alternative way for RV to invade the CNS. So far, it is unknown whether hematogenous spread has any relevance in RV pathogenesis. To determine whether certain RV variants might have the capacity to invade the CNS from the periphery via hematogenous spread, we infected mice either intramuscularly (i.m.) or intravenously (i.v.) with the dog-associated RV DOG4 or the silver-haired bat-associated RV SB. In addition to monitoring the progression of clinical signs of rabies we used immunohistochemistry and quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to follow the spread of the virus from the infection site to the brain. In contrast to i.m. infection where both variants caused a lethal encephalopathy, only i.v. infection with SB resulted in the development of a lethal infection. While qRT-PCR did not reveal major differences in virus loads in spinal cord or brain at different times after i.m. or i.v. infection of SB, immunohistochemical analysis showed that only i.v. administered SB directly infected the forebrain. The earliest affected regions were those hypothalamic nuclei, which are connected by neurosecretory fibers to the circumventricular organs neurohypophysis and median eminence. Our data suggest that hematogenous spread of SB can lead to a fatal encephalopathy through direct retrograde invasion of the CNS at the neurovascular interface of the hypothalamus-hypophysis system. This alternative mode of virus spread has implications for the post exposure prophylaxis of rabies, particularly with silver-haired bat-associated RV.
Rabies virus (RV) infects mammalian neurons and cycles in regionally distinct animal populations such as the red fox in Europe, domestic canines in Asia, or raccoons, skunks and bats in Northern America. Although human rabies can be prevented by pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, more than 50,000 people die annually from the severe encephalopathy caused by RV. Recently, two cases of RV transmission by organ transplantation were reported. In our study, using intravenous inoculation of mice, we evaluated the pathogenetic relevance of virions that reach the bloodstream. Mice inoculated intravenously with a canine-derived RV survived the infection in contrast to intramuscularly injected mice, while mice infected with a silver-haired bat-related RV succumbed to the disease regardless of the route of inoculation. We found that the silver-haired bat-related RV was able to transit from the blood to the brain by invading neurosecretory fibers of the hypothalamus, which form neurohemal synapses lacking a blood-brain-barrier. This newly described route of brain invasion might reflect how RV reached the central nervous system from transplanted organs, since it takes longer to establish the neural connections between host and grafted tissue necessary for classical RV migration than the time until the infection became symptomatic in the two reported cases.
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.
Surveillance for lyssaviruses was conducted among bat populations in 8 provinces in Thailand. In 2002 and 2003, a total of 932 bats of 11 species were captured and released after serum collection. Lyssavirus infection was determined by conducting virus neutralization assays on bat serum samples. Of collected samples, 538 were either hemolysed or insufficient in volume, which left 394 suitable for analysis. These samples included the following: Pteropus lylei (n = 335), Eonycteris spelaea (n = 45), Hipposideros armiger (n = 13), and Rousettus leschennaulti (n = 1). No serum samples had evidence of neutralizing antibodies when tested against rabies virus. However, 16 samples had detectable neutralizing antibodies against Aravan virus, Khujand virus, Irkut virus, or Australian bat lyssavirus; all were specifically associated with fruit bats P. lylei (n = 15) and E. spelaea (n = 1). These results are consistent with the presence of naturally occurring viruses related to new putative lyssavirus genotypes.
Lyssavirus; rabies; RNA; bat; chiroptera; zoonosis; animals; fluorescent antibody technique; direct/veterinary; Thailand; research
In 2009, a novel lyssavirus (subsequently named Ikoma lyssavirus, IKOV) was detected in the brain of an African civet (Civettictis civetta) with clinical rabies in the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The degree of nucleotide divergence between the genome of IKOV and those of other lyssaviruses predicted antigenic distinction from, and lack of protection provided by, available rabies vaccines. In addition, the index case was considered likely to be an incidental spillover event, and therefore the true reservoir of IKOV remained to be identified. The advent of sensitive molecular techniques has led to a rapid increase in the discovery of novel viruses. Detecting viral sequence alone, however, only allows for prediction of phenotypic characteristics and not their measurement. In the present study we describe the in vitro and in vivo characterization of IKOV, demonstrating that it is (1) pathogenic by peripheral inoculation in an animal model, (2) antigenically distinct from current rabies vaccine strains and (3) poorly neutralized by sera from humans and animals immunized against rabies. In a laboratory mouse model, no protection was elicited by a licensed rabies vaccine. We also investigated the role of bats as reservoirs of IKOV. We found no evidence for infection among 483 individuals of at least 13 bat species sampled across sites in the Serengeti and Southern Kenya.
Aquatic birds harbor diverse influenza A viruses and are a major viral reservoir in nature. The recent discovery of influenza viruses of a new H17N10 subtype in Central American fruit bats suggests that other New World species may similarly carry divergent influenza viruses. Using consensus degenerate RT-PCR, we identified a novel influenza A virus, designated as H18N11, in a flat-faced fruit bat (Artibeus planirostris) from Peru. Serologic studies with the recombinant H18 protein indicated that several Peruvian bat species were infected by this virus. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that, in some gene segments, New World bats harbor more influenza virus genetic diversity than all other mammalian and avian species combined, indicative of a long-standing host-virus association. Structural and functional analyses of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase indicate that sialic acid is not a ligand for virus attachment nor a substrate for release, suggesting a unique mode of influenza A virus attachment and activation of membrane fusion for entry into host cells. Taken together, these findings indicate that bats constitute a potentially important and likely ancient reservoir for a diverse pool of influenza viruses.
Previous studies indicated that a novel influenza A virus (H17N10) was circulating in fruit bats from Guatemala (Central America). Herein, we investigated whether similar viruses are present in bat species from South America. Analysis of rectal swabs from bats sampled in the Amazon rainforest region of Peru identified another new influenza A virus from bats that is phylogenetically distinct from the one identified in Guatemala. The genes that encode the surface proteins of the new virus from the flat-faced fruit bat were designated as new subtype H18N11. Serologic testing of blood samples from several species of Peruvian bats indicated a high prevalence of antibodies to the surface proteins. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that bat populations from Central and South America maintain as much influenza virus genetic diversity in some gene segments as all other mammalian and avian species combined. The crystal structures of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins indicate that sialic acid is not a receptor for virus attachment nor a substrate for release, suggesting a novel mechanism of influenza A virus attachment and activation of membrane fusion for entry into host cells. In summary, our findings indicate that bats constitute a potentially important reservoir for influenza viruses.
Marburg virus (family Filoviridae) causes sporadic outbreaks of severe hemorrhagic disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Bats have been implicated as likely natural reservoir hosts based most recently on an investigation of cases among miners infected in 2007 at the Kitaka mine, Uganda, which contained a large population of Marburg virus-infected Rousettus aegyptiacus fruit bats. Described here is an ecologic investigation of Python Cave, Uganda, where an American and a Dutch tourist acquired Marburg virus infection in December 2007 and July 2008. More than 40,000 R. aegyptiacus were found in the cave and were the sole bat species present. Between August 2008 and November 2009, 1,622 bats were captured and tested for Marburg virus. Q-RT-PCR analysis of bat liver/spleen tissues indicated ∼2.5% of the bats were actively infected, seven of which yielded Marburg virus isolates. Moreover, Q-RT-PCR-positive lung, kidney, colon and reproductive tissues were found, consistent with potential for oral, urine, fecal or sexual transmission. The combined data for R. aegyptiacus tested from Python Cave and Kitaka mine indicate low level horizontal transmission throughout the year. However, Q-RT-PCR data show distinct pulses of virus infection in older juvenile bats (∼six months of age) that temporarily coincide with the peak twice-yearly birthing seasons. Retrospective analysis of historical human infections suspected to have been the result of discrete spillover events directly from nature found 83% (54/65) events occurred during these seasonal pulses in virus circulation, perhaps demonstrating periods of increased risk of human infection. The discovery of two tags at Python Cave from bats marked at Kitaka mine, together with the close genetic linkages evident between viruses detected in geographically distant locations, are consistent with R. aegyptiacus bats existing as a large meta-population with associated virus circulation over broad geographic ranges. These findings provide a basis for developing Marburg hemorrhagic fever risk reduction strategies.
Marburg virus, like its close relative Ebola virus, can cause large outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever with case fatalities nearing 90%. For decades the identity of the natural reservoir was unknown. However, in 2007 Marburg viruses were isolated directly from Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) that inhabited a Ugandan gold mine where miners were previously infected. Soon after, two tourists became infected with Marburg virus after visiting nearby Python Cave, a popular attraction in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. This cave also contained R. aegyptiacus bats (∼40,000 animals). These events prompted a long-term investigation of Python Cave to determine if, 1) R. aegyptiacus in the cave carried infectious Marburg virus genetically similar to that found in the tourists, and 2) what ecological factors might influence virus spillover to humans. In the study, we found that, 1) approximately 2.5% of the bat colony is actively infected at any one time and that virus isolates from bats are genetically similar to those from infected tourists, and 2) specific age groups of bats (juveniles∼six months of age) are particularly likely to be infected at specific times of the year that roughly coincide with historical dates of Marburg virus spillover into humans.
Six hundred and twenty-eight insectivorous bats originating from seven provinces were submitted to this Institute for rabies diagnosis between August 1, 1963 and December 31, 1967. Brain tissue was examined by the fluorescent antibody technique and the mouse infectivity test was carried out with brain, salivary gland, interscapular adipose tissue and kidney samples. Rabies virus was detected in 44 bats, 29 of which were from Ontario, 12 from British Columbia and three from Manitoba. Most of the positive cases were diagnosed in summer months. Seven species were represented among the specimens found to be rabid; there were 32 big brown bats, three hoary bats, three silver-haired bats, two little brown bats, one eastern pipistrelle, one Keen myotis and one red bat. Another bat which was not identified also proved to be infected with rabies.
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.
Two human deaths caused by Australian bat lyssavirus (ABL) infection have been reported since 1996. Information was obtained from 205 persons (mostly adults from south Brisbane and the South Coast of Queensland), who reported potential ABL exposure to the Brisbane Southside Public Health Unit from November 1,1996, to January 31, 1999. Volunteer animal handlers accounted for 39% of potential exposures, their family members for 12%, professional animal handlers for 14%, community members who intentionally handled bats for 31%, and community members with contacts initiated by bats for 4%. The prevalence of Lyssavirus detected by fluorescent antibody test in 366 sick, injured, or orphaned bats from the area was 6%. Sequelae of exposure, including the requirement for expensive postexposure prophylaxis, may be reduced by educating bat handlers and the public of the risks involved in handling Australian bats.
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.
Until 2008, human rabies had never been reported in French Guiana. On 28 May 2008, the French National Reference Center for Rabies (Institut Pasteur, Paris) confirmed the rabies diagnosis, based on hemi-nested polymerase chain reaction on skin biopsy and saliva specimens from a Guianan, who had never travelled overseas and died in Cayenne after presenting clinically typical meningoencephalitis.
Molecular typing of the virus identified a Lyssavirus (Rabies virus species), closely related to those circulating in hematophagous bats (mainly Desmodus rotundus) in Latin America. A multidisciplinary Crisis Unit was activated. Its objectives were to implement an epidemiological investigation and a veterinary survey, to provide control measures and establish a communications program. The origin of the contamination was not formally established, but was probably linked to a bat bite based on the virus type isolated. After confirming exposure of 90 persons, they were vaccinated against rabies: 42 from the case's entourage and 48 healthcare workers. To handle that emergence and the local population's increased demand to be vaccinated, a specific communications program was established using several media: television, newspaper, radio.
This episode, occurring in the context of a Department far from continental France, strongly affected the local population, healthcare workers and authorities, and the management team faced intense pressure. This observation confirms that the risk of contracting rabies in French Guiana is real, with consequences for population educational program, control measures, medical diagnosis and post-exposure prophylaxis.
Until 2008, rabies had never been described within the French Guianan human population. Emergence of the first case in May 2008 in this French Overseas Department represented a public health event that markedly affected the local population, healthcare workers and public health authorities. The antirabies clinic of French Guiana, located at Institut Pasteur de la Guyane, had to reorganize its functioning to handle the dramatically increased demand for vaccination. A rigorous epidemiological investigation and a veterinary study were conducted to identify the contamination source, probably linked to a bat bite, and the exposed population. Communication was a key factor to controlling this episode and changing the local perception of this formerly neglected disease. Because similar clinical cases had previously been described, without having been diagnosed, medical practices must be adapted and the rabies virus should be sought more systematically in similarly presenting cases. Sharing this experience could be useful for other countries that might someday have to manage such an emergence.