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1.  Molecular Diversity of Rabies Viruses Associated with Bats in Mexico and Other Countries of the Americas 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;44(5):1697-1710.
Bat rabies and its transmission to humans and other species in Mexico were investigated. Eighty-nine samples obtained from rabid livestock, cats, dogs, and humans in Mexico were studied by antigenic typing and partial sequence analysis. Samples were further compared with enzootic rabies associated with different species of bats in the Americas. Patterns of nucleotide variation allowed the definition of at least 20 monophyletic clusters associated with 9 or more different bat species. Several lineages associated with distinctive antigenic patterns were found in rabies viruses related to rabies in vampire bats in Mexico. Vampire bat rabies virus lineages associated with antigenic variant 3 are widely spread from Mexico to South America, suggesting these lineages as the most likely ancestors of vampire bat rabies and the ones that have been moved by vampire bat populations throughout the Americas. Rabies viruses related to Lasiurus cinereus, Histiotus montanus, and some other not yet identified species of the genus Lasiurus were found circulating in Mexico. Long-range dissemination patterns of rabies are not necessarily associated with migratory bat species, as in the case of rabies in Desmodus rotundus and Histiotus montanus. Human rabies was associated with vampire bat transmission in most cases, and in one case, rabies transmission from free-tailed bats was inferred. The occurrence of rabies spillover from bats to domestic animals was also demonstrated. Genetic typing of rabies viruses allowed us to distinguish trends of disease dissemination and to address, in a preliminary fashion, aspects of the complex evolution of rabies viruses in different host-reservoir species.
PMCID: PMC1479161  PMID: 16672396
2.  Molecular and geographic analyses of vampire bat-transmitted cattle rabies in central Brazil 
Vampire bats are important rabies virus vectors, causing critical problems in both the livestock industry and public health sector in Latin America. In order to assess the epidemiological characteristics of vampire bat-transmitted rabies, the authors conducted phylogenetic and geographical analyses using sequence data of a large number of cattle rabies isolates collected from a wide geographical area in Brazil.
Partial nucleoprotein genes of rabies viruses isolated from 666 cattle and 18 vampire bats between 1987 and 2006 were sequenced and used for phylogenetic analysis. The genetic variants were plotted on topographical maps of Brazil.
In this study, 593 samples consisting of 24 genetic variants were analyzed. Regional localization of variants was observed, with the distribution of several variants found to be delimited by mountain ranges which served as geographic boundaries. The geographical distributions of vampire-bat and cattle isolates that were classified as the identical phylogenetic group were found to overlap with high certainty. Most of the samples analyzed in this study were isolated from adjacent areas linked by rivers.
This study revealed the existence of several dozen regional variants associated with vampire bats in Brazil, with the distribution patterns of these variants found to be affected by mountain ranges and rivers. These results suggest that epidemiological characteristics of vampire bat-related rabies appear to be associated with the topographical and geographical characteristics of areas where cattle are maintained, and the factors affecting vampire bat ecology.
PMCID: PMC2613875  PMID: 18983685
3.  Bat Rabies in Guatemala 
Rabies in bats is considered enzootic throughout the New World, but few comparative data are available for most countries in the region. As part of a larger pathogen detection program, enhanced bat rabies surveillance was conducted in Guatemala, between 2009 and 2011. A total of 672 bats of 31 species were sampled and tested for rabies. The prevalence of rabies virus (RABV) detection among all collected bats was low (0.3%). Viral antigens were detected and infectious virus was isolated from the brains of two common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus). RABV was also isolated from oral swabs, lungs and kidneys of both bats, whereas viral RNA was detected in all of the tissues examined by hemi-nested RT-PCR except for the liver of one bat. Sequencing of the nucleoprotein gene showed that both viruses were 100% identical, whereas sequencing of the glycoprotein gene revealed one non-synonymous substitution (302T,S). The two vampire bat RABV isolates in this study were phylogenetically related to viruses associated with vampire bats in the eastern states of Mexico and El Salvador. Additionally, 7% of sera collected from 398 bats demonstrated RABV neutralizing antibody. The proportion of seropositive bats varied significantly across trophic guilds, suggestive of complex intraspecific compartmentalization of RABV perpetuation.
Author Summary
In this study we provide results of the first active and extensive surveillance effort for rabies virus (RABV) circulation among bats in Guatemala. The survey included multiple geographic areas and multiple species of bats, to assess the broader public and veterinary health risks associated with rabies in bats in Guatemala. RABV was isolated from vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) collected in two different locations in Guatemala. Sequencing of the isolates revealed a closer relationship to Mexican and Central American vampire bat isolates than to South American isolates. The detection of RABV neutralizing antibodies in 11 species, including insectivorous, frugivorous, and sanguivorous bats, demonstrates viral circulation in both hematophagous and non-hematophagous bat species in Guatemala. The presence of bat RABV in rural communities requires new strategies for public health education regarding contact with bats, improved laboratory-based surveillance of animals associated with human exposures, and novel techniques for modern rabies prevention and control. Additionally, healthcare practitioners should emphasize the collection of a detailed medical history, including questions regarding bat exposure, for patients presenting with clinical syndromes compatible with rabies or any clinically diagnosed progressive encephalitis.
PMCID: PMC4117473  PMID: 25080103
4.  Ecology and Geography of Transmission of Two Bat-Borne Rabies Lineages in Chile 
Rabies was known to humans as a disease thousands of years ago. In America, insectivorous bats are natural reservoirs of rabies virus. The bat species Tadarida brasiliensis and Lasiurus cinereus, with their respective, host-specific rabies virus variants AgV4 and AgV6, are the principal rabies reservoirs in Chile. However, little is known about the roles of bat species in the ecology and geographic distribution of the virus. This contribution aims to address a series of questions regarding the ecology of rabies transmission in Chile. Analyzing records from 1985–2011 at the Instituto de Salud Pública de Chile (ISP) and using ecological niche modeling, we address these questions to help in understanding rabies-bat ecological dynamics in South America. We found ecological niche identity between both hosts and both viral variants, indicating that niches of all actors in the system are undifferentiated, although the viruses do not necessarily occupy the full geographic distributions of their hosts. Bat species and rabies viruses share similar niches, and our models had significant predictive power even across unsampled regions; results thus suggest that outbreaks may occur under consistent, stable, and predictable circumstances.
Author Summary
The situation of rabies in America has been changing: rabies in dogs has decreased considerably, but bats are increasingly documented as natural reservoirs of other rabies variants. A significant gap exists in understanding of bat-borne rabies in Latin America. We identified bat species known to be connected with enzootic rabies with different antigenic variants in Chile, and compiled large-scale data sets by which to test for ecological niche differences among virus lineages and bat hosts. Our results begin to characterize important ecological factors affecting rabies distribution; modeling rabies in Chile allows comparisons across different latitudes and diverse landscapes. We found that rabies virus strains are found in similar environments, regardless of the bat host involved. This research improves understanding of bat-borne rabies dynamics, and important step towards preventing and controlling this and other emergent diseases linked to bats.
PMCID: PMC3861194  PMID: 24349592
5.  Evolutionary History and Phylogeography of Rabies Viruses Associated with Outbreaks in Trinidad 
Bat rabies is an emerging disease of public health significance in the Americas. The Caribbean island of Trinidad experiences periodic outbreaks within the livestock population. We performed molecular characterisation of Trinidad rabies virus (RABV) and used a Bayesian phylogeographic approach to investigate the extent to which outbreaks are a result of in situ evolution versus importation of virus from the nearby South American mainland. Trinidadian RABV sequences were confirmed as bat variant and clustered with Desmodus rotundus (vampire bat) related sequences. They fell into two largely temporally defined lineages designated Trinidad I and II. The Trinidad I lineage which included sequences from 1997–2000 (all but two of which were from the northeast of the island) was most closely related to RABV from Ecuador (2005, 2007), French Guiana (1990) and Venezuela (1993, 1994). Trinidad II comprised sequences from the southwest of the island, which clustered into two groups: Trinidad IIa, which included one sequence each from 2000 and 2007, and Trinidad IIb including all 2010 sequences. The Trinidad II sequences were most closely related to sequences from Brazil (1999, 2004) and Uruguay (2007, 2008). Phylogeographic analyses support three separate RABV introductions from the mainland from which each of the three Trinidadian lineages arose. The estimated dates for the introductions and subsequent lineage expansions suggest periods of in situ evolution within Trinidad following each introduction. These data also indicate co-circulation of Trinidad lineage I and IIa during 2000. In light of these findings and the likely vampire bat origin of Trinidadian RABV, further studies should be conducted to investigate the relationship between RABV spatiotemporal dynamics and vampire bat population ecology, in particular any movement between the mainland and Trinidad.
Author Summary
The Caribbean island of Trinidad experiences periodic rabies virus (RABV) outbreaks within the livestock population. In this study, we inferred the evolutionary history of RABV in the Americas and reconstructed past patterns of RABV geographic spread in order to address the question of whether Trinidadian outbreaks arise from locally maintained RABV or are the result of virus importation from the mainland (presumably via infected bats). Our results provide statistical support for three importation events that gave rise to each of three Trinidadian vampire bat-associated lineages identified in the study. They also indicate limited periods of in situ evolution within Trinidad following each of these introductions. The results also support Mexico and Brazil as major epicenters for the expansion of RABV associated with vampire bats throughout the Americas and consequently to Trinidad. The findings of our study are particularly relevant to local RABV monitoring and control. In addition to justifying vampire bats as the main target for active rabies surveillance and control activities in Trinidad, they suggest that more intense surveillance of regions that lie close to the mainland may be warranted. Finally, in light of these findings, further studies should be conducted to investigate the relationship between RABV spatiotemporal dynamics and vampire bat population ecology.
PMCID: PMC3749974  PMID: 23991230
6.  High Diversity of Rabies Viruses Associated with Insectivorous Bats in Argentina: Presence of Several Independent Enzootics 
Rabies is a fatal infection of the central nervous system primarily transmitted by rabid animal bites. Rabies virus (RABV) circulates through two different epidemiological cycles: terrestrial and aerial, where dogs, foxes or skunks and bats, respectively, act as the most relevant reservoirs and/or vectors. It is widely accepted that insectivorous bats are not important vectors of RABV in Argentina despite the great diversity of bat species and the extensive Argentinean territory.
We studied the positivity rate of RABV detection in different areas of the country, and the antigenic and genetic diversity of 99 rabies virus (RABV) strains obtained from 14 species of insectivorous bats collected in Argentina between 1991 and 2008.
Based on the analysis of bats received for RABV analysis by the National Rabies system of surveillance, the positivity rate of RABV in insectivorous bats ranged from 3.1 to 5.4%, depending on the geographic location. The findings were distributed among an extensive area of the Argentinean territory. The 99 strains of insectivorous bat-related sequences were divided into six distinct lineages associated with Tadarida brasiliensis, Myotis spp, Eptesicus spp, Histiotus montanus, Lasiurus blosseviilli and Lasiurus cinereus. Comparison with RABV sequences obtained from insectivorous bats of the Americas revealed co-circulation of similar genetic variants in several countries. Finally, inter-species transmission, mostly related with Lasiurus species, was demonstrated in 11.8% of the samples.
This study demonstrates the presence of several independent enzootics of rabies in insectivorous bats of Argentina. This information is relevant to identify potential areas at risk for human and animal infection.
Author Summary
In Argentina, successful vaccination and control of terrestrial rabies in the 1980s revealed the importance of the aerial route in RABV transmission. Current distribution of cases shows a predominance of rabies by hematophagous bats in the Northern regions where rabies is a major public health concern; in contrast, in Central and Southern regions where rabies is not a major public health concern, little surveillance is performed. Based on the analysis of insectivorous bats received for RABV analysis by the National Rabies system of surveillance, the positivity rate of RABV in insectivorous bats in these regions ranged from 3.1 to 5.4%. This rate is comparable to other nations such as the United States (9–10%) where insectivorous bats are an important cause of concern for RABV surveillance systems. Antigenic and genetic analysis of a wide collection of rabies strains shows the presence of multiple endemic cycles associated with six bat insectivorous species distributed among an extensive area of the Argentinean territory and several countries of the Americas. Finally, inter-species transmission, mostly related with Lasiurus species, was demonstrated in 11.8% of the samples. Increased public education about the relationship between insectivorous bats and rabies are essential to avoid human cases and potential spread to terrestrial mammals.
PMCID: PMC3348165  PMID: 22590657
7.  Ecological and anthropogenic drivers of rabies exposure in vampire bats: implications for transmission and control 
Despite extensive culling of common vampire bats in Latin America, lethal human rabies outbreaks transmitted by this species are increasingly recognized, and livestock rabies occurs with striking frequency. To identify the individual and population-level factors driving rabies virus (RV) transmission in vampire bats, we conducted a longitudinal capture–recapture study in 20 vampire bat colonies spanning four regions of Peru. Serology demonstrated the circulation of RV in vampire bats from all regions in all years. Seroprevalence ranged from 3 to 28 per cent and was highest in juvenile and sub-adult bats. RV exposure was independent of bat colony size, consistent with an absence of population density thresholds for viral invasion and extinction. Culling campaigns implemented during our study failed to reduce seroprevalence and were perhaps counterproductive for disease control owing to the targeted removal of adults, but potentially greater importance of juvenile and sub-adult bats for transmission. These findings provide new insights into the mechanisms of RV maintenance in vampire bats and highlight the need for ecologically informed approaches to rabies prevention in Latin America.
PMCID: PMC3396893  PMID: 22696521
culling; disease thresholds; longitudinal; Lyssavirus; chiroptera; Desmodus
8.  Knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding rabies and exposure to bats in two rural communities in Guatemala 
BMC Research Notes  2015;8:955.
Rabies is a fatal encephalitis caused by rabies virus, of the genus Lyssavirus. The principal reservoir for rabies in Latin America is the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), which feeds routinely on the blood of cattle, and when livestock are scarce, may prey on other mammals, including humans. Although rabies is endemic in common vampire bat populations in Guatemala, there is limited research on the extent of exposure to bats among human populations living near bat refuges.
A random sample of 270 of 473 households (57%) in two communities located within 2 Km of a known bat roost was selected and one adult from each household was interviewed. Exposure to bats (bites, scratches or bare skin contact) was reported by 96 (6%) of the 1,721 residents among the selected households. Of those exposed, 40% received rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. Four percent of household respondents reported that they would seek rabies post exposure prophylaxis if they were bitten by a bat.
These findings demonstrate that exposure to bats in communities near bat roosts is common but recognition of the potential for rabies transmission from bats is low. There is a need for educational outreach to raise awareness of bat-associated rabies, prevent exposures to bats and ensure appropriate health-seeking behaviours for bat-inflicted wounds, particularly among communities living near bat roosts in Guatemala.
PMCID: PMC4302579  PMID: 25576098
Rabies; Bat bite; Health practices; Post-exposure prophylaxis; Guatemala; Rabies prevention; Vampire bat
9.  Enzootic and Epizootic Rabies Associated with Vampire Bats, Peru 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(9):1463-1469.
During the past decade, incidence of human infection with rabies virus (RABV) spread by the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) increased considerably in South America, especially in remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, where these bats commonly feed on humans. To better understand the epizootiology of rabies associated with vampire bats, we used complete sequences of the nucleoprotein gene to infer phylogenetic relationships among 157 RABV isolates collected from humans, domestic animals, and wildlife, including bats, in Peru during 2002–2007. This analysis revealed distinct geographic structuring that indicates that RABVs spread gradually and involve different vampire bat subpopulations with different transmission cycles. Three putative new RABV lineages were found in 3 non–vampire bat species that may represent new virus reservoirs. Detection of novel RABV variants and accurate identification of reservoir hosts are critically important for the prevention and control of potential virus transmission, especially to humans.
PMCID: PMC3810916
rabies; molecular epidemiology; bats; Peru; viruses; zoonoses; vampire bats
10.  Rabies Risk: Difficulties Encountered during Management of Grouped Cases of Bat Bites in 2 Isolated Villages in French Guiana 
In French Guiana, from 1984 to 2011, 14 animal rabies cases and 1 human rabies case (2008) were diagnosed. In January 2011, vampire-bat attacks occurred in 2 isolated villages. In mid-January, a medical team from the Cayenne Centre for Anti-Rabies Treatment visited the sites to manage individuals potentially exposed to rabies and, in April, an anti-rabies vaccination campaign for dogs was conducted. Twenty individuals were bitten by bats in 1 month, most frequently on the feet. The median time to start management was 15 days. The complete Zagreb vaccination protocol (2 doses on day 0 and 1 dose on days 7 and 21) was administered to 16 patients, 12 also received specific immunoglobulins. The antibody titration was obtained for 12 patients (different from those who received immunoglobulins). The antibody titers were ≥0.5 EU/mL for all of them. The serology has not been implemented for the 12 patients who received immunoglobulins. Accidental destruction of a vampire-bat colony could be responsible for the attacks. The isolation and absence of sensitization of the populations were the main explanations for the management difficulties encountered. Sensitization programs should be conducted regularly.
Author Summary
Rabies is a disease almost invariably fatal in humans once the first clinical signs appear. In French Guiana bats represent the virus reservoir, especially vampire bats. From 1984 to 2011, 14 animal rabies cases and 1 human rabies case (2008) were diagnosed. In case of bat bite, anti-rabies immunoglobulins (RIG) and rabies vaccine must be rapidly administrated. The specific rabies management is exclusively performed by Centre for Anti-Rabies Treatment (CART), located at the Institut Pasteur in Cayenne, the prefecture of French Guiana, and 6 Anti-Rabies Treatment Outposts distributed along the coastal edge and along the two main rivers. Only a CART physician can administer RIG. In January 2011, vampire-bat attacks occurred in 2 isolated villages. In mid-January, a medical team from the CART visited the sites to manage individuals potentially exposed to rabies and, in April, an anti-rabies vaccination campaign for dogs was conducted. The most relevant contribution of this study is to underline difficulties to provide rabies post-exposure prophylaxis to remote populations exposed to bat rabies in the Amazonian region and to show the lack of awareness of these rural populations concerning rabies and the risk associated to vampire bats.
PMCID: PMC3694830  PMID: 23826400
The situation of rabies in America is complex: rabies in dogs has decreased dramatically, but bats are increasingly recognized as natural reservoirs of other rabies variants. Here, bat species known to be rabies-positive with different antigenic variants, are summarized in relation to bat conservation status across Latin America. Rabies virus is widespread in Latin American bat species, 22.5%75 of bat species have been confirmed as rabies-positive. Most bat species found rabies positive are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “Least Concern”. According to diet type, insectivorous bats had the most species known as rabies reservoirs, while in proportion hematophagous bats were the most important. Research at coarse spatial scales must strive to understand rabies ecology; basic information on distribution and population dynamics of many Latin American and Caribbean bat species is needed; and detailed information on effects of landscape change in driving bat-borne rabies outbreaks remains unassessed. Finally, integrated approaches including public health, ecology, and conservation biology are needed to understand and prevent emergent diseases in bats.
PMCID: PMC4325525  PMID: 25651328
Rabies virus; Bats; Geographic distribution; Biodiversity
12.  Present and Potential Future Distribution of Common Vampire Bats in the Americas and the Associated Risk to Cattle 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42466.
Success of the cattle industry in Latin America is impeded by the common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus, through decreases in milk production and mass gain and increased risk of secondary infection and rabies. We used ecological niche modeling to predict the current potential distribution of D. rotundus and the future distribution of the species for the years 2030, 2050, and 2080 based on the A2, A1B, and B1 climate scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We then combined the present day potential distribution with cattle density estimates to identify areas where cattle are at higher risk for the negative impacts due to D. rotundus. We evaluated our risk prediction by plotting 17 documented outbreaks of cattle rabies. Our results indicated highly suitable habitat for D. rotundus occurs throughout most of Mexico and Central America as well as portions of Venezuela, Guyana, the Brazilian highlands, western Ecuador, northern Argentina, and east of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. With future climate projections suitable habitat for D. rotundus is predicted in these same areas and additional areas in French Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela and Columbia; however D. rotundus are not likely to expand into the U.S. because of inadequate ‘temperature seasonality.’ Areas with large portions of cattle at risk include Mexico, Central America, Paraguay, and Brazil. Twelve of 17 documented cattle rabies outbreaks were represented in regions predicted at risk. Our present day and future predictions can help authorities focus rabies prevention efforts and inform cattle ranchers which areas are at an increased risk of cattle rabies because it has suitable habitat for D. rotundus.
PMCID: PMC3416852  PMID: 22900023
13.  Bat-transmitted Human Rabies Outbreaks, Brazilian Amazon 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2006;12(8):1197-1202.
We describe 2 bat-transmitted outbreaks in remote, rural areas of Portel and Viseu Municipalities, Pará State, northern Brazil. Central nervous system specimens were taken after patients' deaths and underwent immunofluorescent assay and histopathologic examination for rabies antigens; also, specimens were injected intracerebrally into suckling mice in an attempt to isolate the virus. Strains obtained were antigenically and genetically characterized. Twenty-one persons died due to paralytic rabies in the 2 municipalities. Ten rabies virus strains were isolated from human specimens; 2 other cases were diagnosed by histopathologic examination. Isolates were antigenically characterized as Desmodus rotundus variant 3 (AgV3). DNA sequencing of 6 strains showed that they were genetically close to D. rotundus–related strains isolated in Brazil. The genetic results were similar to those obtained by using monoclonal antibodies and support the conclusion that the isolates studied belong to the same rabies cycle, the virus variants found in the vampire bat D. rotundus.
PMCID: PMC3291204  PMID: 16965697
human rabies virus, bat transmission, antigenic and genetic characterization; Brazilian Amazon
14.  Rabies in Iraq: Trends in Human Cases 2001–2010 and Characterisation of Animal Rabies Strains from Baghdad 
Control of rabies requires a consistent supply of dependable resources, constructive cooperation between veterinary and public health authorities, and systematic surveillance. These are challenging in any circumstances, but particularly during conflict. Here we describe available human rabies surveillance data from Iraq, results of renewed sampling for rabies in animals, and the first genetic characterisation of circulating rabies strains from Iraq. Human rabies is notifiable, with reported cases increasing since 2003, and a marked increase in Baghdad between 2009 and 2010. These changes coincide with increasing numbers of reported dog bites. There is no laboratory confirmation of disease or virus characterisation and no systematic surveillance for rabies in animals. To address these issues, brain samples were collected from domestic animals in the greater Baghdad region and tested for rabies. Three of 40 brain samples were positive using the fluorescent antibody test and hemi-nested RT-PCR for rabies virus (RABV). Bayesian phylogenetic analysis using partial nucleoprotein gene sequences derived from the samples demonstrated the viruses belong to a single virus variant and share a common ancestor with viruses from neighbouring countries, 22 (95% HPD 14–32) years ago. These include countries lying to the west, north and east of Iraq, some of which also have other virus variants circulating concurrently. These results suggest possible multiple introductions of rabies into the Middle East, and regular trans-boundary movement of disease. Although 4000 years have passed since the original description of disease consistent with rabies, animals and humans are still dying of this preventable and neglected zoonosis.
Author Summary
Control of rabies requires cooperation between government departments, consistent funding, and an understanding of the epidemiology of the disease obtained through surveillance. Here we describe human rabies surveillance data from Iraq and the results of renewed sampling for rabies in animals. In Iraq, it is obligatory by law to report cases of human rabies. These reports were collated and analysed. Reported cases have increased since 2003, with a marked increase in Baghdad 2009–2010. There is no system for detecting rabies in animals and the strains circulating in Iraq have not previously been characterized. To address this, samples were collected from domestic animals in Baghdad and tested for rabies. Three out of 40 were positive for rabies virus. Comparison of part of the viral genetic sequence with other viruses from the region demonstrated that the viruses from Iraq are more closely related to each other than those from surrounding countries, but diverged from viruses isolated in neighbouring countries approximately 22 (95% HPD 14–32) years ago. Although 4000 years have passed since the original description of disease consistent with rabies, animals and humans are still dying of this preventable and neglected zoonosis.
PMCID: PMC3585036  PMID: 23469303
15.  Isolation of Irkut Virus from a Murina leucogaster Bat in China 
Background and objectives
Bats are recognized as a major reservoir of lyssaviruses; however, no bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Asia except for Aravan and Khujand virus in Central Asia. All Chinese lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been of species rabies virus, mainly from dogs. Following at least two recent bat-associated human rabies-like cases in northeast China, we have initiated a study of the prevalence of lyssaviruses in bats in Jilin province and their public health implications. A bat lyssavirus has been isolated and its pathogenicity in mice and genomic alignment have been determined.
We report the first isolation of a bat lyssavirus in China, from the brain of a northeastern bat, Murina leucogaster. Its nucleoprotein gene shared 92.4%/98.9% (nucleotide) and 92.2%/98.8% (amino acid) identity with the two known Irkut virus isolates from Russia, and was designated IRKV-THChina12. Following intracranial and intramuscular injection, IRKV-THChina12 produced rabies-like symptoms in adult mice with a short inoculation period and high mortality. Nucleotide sequence analysis showed that IRKV-THChina12 has the same genomic organization as other lyssaviruses and its isolation provides an independent origin for the species IRKV.
We have identified the existence of a bat lyssavirus in a common Chinese bat species. Its high pathogenicity in adult mice suggests that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
Author Summary
The Lyssavirus genus presently comprises 12 species and two unapproved species with different antigenic characteristics. Rabies virus is detectable worldwide; Lagos bat virus, Mokola virus, Duvenhage virus, Shimoni bat virus, and Ikoma lyssavirus circulate in Africa; European bat lyssavirus types 1 and 2, Irkut virus, West Caucasian bat virus, and Bokeloh bat lyssavirus are found in Europe; and Australian bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Australia. Only Aravan and Khujand viruses have been identified in central Asia. Bats are recognized as the most important reservoirs of lyssaviruses. In China, all lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been rabies virus, mainly from dogs; none has been from bats. Recently, however, at least two bat-associated human rabies or rabies-like cases have been reported in northeast China. Therefore, we conducted a search for bat lyssaviruses in Jilin province, close to where the first bat-associated human rabies case was recorded. We isolated a bat lyssavirus, identified as an Irkut virus isolate with high pathogenicity in experimental mice. Our findings suggest that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance should be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
PMCID: PMC3591329  PMID: 23505588
16.  Vampire Bat Rabies: Ecology, Epidemiology and Control 
Viruses  2014;6(5):1911-1928.
Extensive surveillance in bat populations in response to recent emerging diseases has revealed that this group of mammals acts as a reservoir for a large range of viruses. However, the oldest known association between a zoonotic virus and a bat is that between rabies virus and the vampire bat. Vampire bats are only found in Latin America and their unique method of obtaining nutrition, blood-feeding or haematophagy, has only evolved in the New World. The adaptations that enable blood-feeding also make the vampire bat highly effective at transmitting rabies virus. Whether the virus was present in pre-Columbian America or was introduced is much disputed, however, the introduction of Old World livestock and associated landscape modification, which continues to the present day, has enabled vampire bat populations to increase. This in turn has provided the conditions for rabies re-emergence to threaten both livestock and human populations as vampire bats target large mammals. This review considers the ecology of the vampire bat that make it such an efficient vector for rabies, the current status of vampire-transmitted rabies and the future prospects for spread by this virus and its control.
PMCID: PMC4036541  PMID: 24784570
vampire bat; Desmodus rotundus; rabies virus; transmission
17.  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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2993726  PMID: 21059233
18.  The Activity of Rabies Vaccines against Genetic Clusters of Rabies Virus Circulating at the Territory of Ukraine 
To identify the presence of genetic clusters of rabies virus at the territory of Ukraine and to determine the degree of activity of rabies vaccines against these genetic clusters.
To develop and implement an effective program of rabies eradication in Ukraine in 2008 was founded the unique collection of samples of pathological materials confirmed as positive in rabies at the regional veterinary laboratories of Ukraine. The collection is constantly updated and to present moment it includes 1389 samples from all regions of Ukraine, selected from 17 animal species and humans.
Identification of the rabies virus in samples of pathological material for their further selection was carried out using the test developed by us which based on RT-PCR with primers complementary to the conservative fragments of the 5’-end of nucleoprotein gene of rabies virus.
For the study of the street rabies virus isolates from the collection we use RT-PCR with the primers pair (509, 304) flanking the variable 3’-end part of nucleoprotein gene of the reference strain of rabies virus CVS (fragment in 377 bp).
Studies of rabies vaccines activity were carried out with modified method of U.S. National Institutes of Health using rabies virus street isolates of both genetic clusters instead of the Challenge Virus Standard (CVS). All isolates of street rabies virus were inoculated in a dose of 5–50 LD50. The criteria for evaluation of protective activity of rabies vaccine was effective dose (− lg ED50).
In molecular genetic studies with variant-specific primers we established the presence in Ukraine of two clusters of rabies virus. Clusters I circulates on the right bank of the Dnipro river (the largest water barrier that divides the country into eastern and western side), and cluster II – on the left bank of the Dnieper.
The relationship of these variants with the epizootic situation was researched. For this purpose epizootological zoning of Ukraine according to the intensity of the epizootic situation in 2005–2009 was carried out. As a result of this analysis all the regions of Ukraine belong to three categories: high, medium and low epizootic situation intensity of rabies.
The projection of differentiated genetic clusters on the epizootic situation showed that cluster II circulating at Left Bank of the Dnieper in areas with high and medium intensity of the epizootic situation, and the cluster I – at the Right Bank of the Dnieper, mainly in the areas with low intensity of the epizootic situation.
That’s why our interest was in the degree of protection of rabies vaccines against street rabies virus isolates belonging to these two genetic clusters.
The commercial vaccines made with rabies virus vaccine strains SAD (Street-Alabama-Dufferin) and Wistar PM/WI were chosen to evaluate this parameter.
After the mathematical calculations of effective dose and the analysis of the data the less effective protection of rabies vaccines (at 29–30 %) against street rabies virus isolates belonging to cluster II in comparison with isolates belonging to cluster I irrespective to the strain vaccine is made was shown.
The data will be used for the effective planning of specific prophylaxis of rabies in Ukraine based on differentiated approach to distribution of rabies vaccines in according to region and their activity.
PMCID: PMC3692803
rabies vaccine; vaccine activity; street rabies virus isolates; genetic variants of rabies virus
19.  Molecular Inferences Suggest Multiple Host Shifts of Rabies Viruses from Bats to Mesocarnivores in Arizona during 2001–2009 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(6):e1002786.
In nature, rabies virus (RABV; genus Lyssavirus, family Rhabdoviridae) represents an assemblage of phylogenetic lineages, associated with specific mammalian host species. Although it is generally accepted that RABV evolved originally in bats and further shifted to carnivores, mechanisms of such host shifts are poorly understood, and examples are rarely present in surveillance data. Outbreaks in carnivores caused by a RABV variant, associated with big brown bats, occurred repeatedly during 2001–2009 in the Flagstaff area of Arizona. After each outbreak, extensive control campaigns were undertaken, with no reports of further rabies cases in carnivores for the next several years. However, questions remained whether all outbreaks were caused by a single introduction and further perpetuation of bat RABV in carnivore populations, or each outbreak was caused by an independent introduction of a bat virus. Another question of concern was related to adaptive changes in the RABV genome associated with host shifts. To address these questions, we sequenced and analyzed 66 complete and 20 nearly complete RABV genomes, including those from the Flagstaff area and other similar outbreaks in carnivores, caused by bat RABVs, and representatives of the major RABV lineages circulating in North America and worldwide. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that each Flagstaff outbreak was caused by an independent introduction of bat RABV into populations of carnivores. Positive selection analysis confirmed the absence of post-shift changes in RABV genes. In contrast, convergent evolution analysis demonstrated several amino acids in the N, P, G and L proteins, which might be significant for pre-adaptation of bat viruses to cause effective infection in carnivores. The substitution S/T242 in the viral glycoprotein is of particular merit, as a similar substitution was suggested for pathogenicity of Nishigahara RABV strain. Roles of the amino acid changes, detected in our study, require additional investigations, using reverse genetics and other approaches.
Author Summary
Host shifts of the rabies virus (RABV) from bats to carnivores are important for our understanding of viral evolution and emergence, and have significant public health implications, particularly for the areas where “terrestrial” rabies has been eliminated. In this study we addressed several rabies outbreaks in carnivores that occurred in the Flagstaff area of Arizona during 2001–2009, and caused by the RABV variant associated with big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). Based on phylogenetic analysis we demonstrated that each outbreak resulted from a separate introduction of bat RABV into populations of carnivores. No post-shift changes in viral genomes were detected under the positive selection analysis. Trying to answer the question why certain bat RABV variants are capable for host shifts to carnivores and other variants are not, we developed a convergent evolution analysis, and implemented it for multiple RABV lineages circulating worldwide. This analysis identified several amino acids in RABV proteins which may facilitate host shifts from bats to carnivores. Precise roles of these amino acids require additional investigations, using reverse genetics and animal experimentation. In general, our approach and the results obtained can be used for prediction of host shifts and emergence of other zoonotic pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3380930  PMID: 22737076
20.  Diagnosis and analysis of a recent case of human rabies in Canada 
On September 30, 2000, staff at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Centre of Expertise for Rabies, located at the Animal Diseases Research Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, diagnosed rabies in a child from Quebec. This was the first case of rabies in a human in Canada in 15 years and in 36 years in the province of Quebec. After spending a week in intensive care in a Montreal hospital, the nine-year-old boy succumbed to this nearly always fatal disease. The boy had been exposed to a bat in late August 2000, while vacationing with his family in the Quebec countryside.
Antemortem specimens taken from the patient were sent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency laboratory for rabies diagnosis. Samples included saliva, eye secretions, corneal impressions, cerebral spinal fluid and skin. Specimens were examined by direct immunofluorescence microscopy, and results were confirmed using molecular biological techniques. Virus strain identification was performed by both genetic methods and phenotypic analysis with monoclonal antibodies.
Initial results from direct immunofluorescence staining indicated that rabies virus was present in the skin biopsy specimen but not in the corneal impressions. This diagnosis of rabies was confirmed by polymerase chain reaction product analysis from several of the submitted specimens. Virus isolation from postmortem samples was not possible because fresh brain tissue was not available. Rabies virus was isolated from saliva and was determined to be similar to a variant that circulates in populations of silver-haired bats.
Intravitam diagnosis of rabies in humans is very dependent on the samples submitted for diagnosis and the method used for testing. Upon first examination, only skin specimens were positive for rabies virus antigen; using polymerase chain reaction analysis, only saliva yielded positive results for rabies virus genome. Extensive testing and retesting of specimens submitted for rabies diagnosis in humans must be done to avoid false negative results.
PMCID: PMC2094860  PMID: 18159382
Bat rabies; Rabies
21.  Ferret badger rabies origin and its revisited importance as potential source of rabies transmission in Southeast China 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:234.
The frequent occurrence of ferret badger-associated human rabies cases in southeast China highlights the lack of laboratory-based surveillance and urges revisiting the potential importance of this animal in rabies transmission. To determine if the ferret badgers actually contribute to human and dog rabies cases, and the possible origin of the ferret badger-associated rabies in the region, an active rabies survey was conducted to determine the frequency of rabies infection and seroprevalence in dogs and ferret badgers.
A retrospective survey on rabies epidemics was performed in Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces in southeast China. The brain tissues from ferret badgers and dogs were assayed by fluorescent antibody test. Rabies virus was isolated and sequenced for phylogenetic analysis. The sera from ferret badgers and dogs were titrated using rabies virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) test.
The ferret badgers presented a higher percentage of rabies seroconversion than dogs did in the endemic region, reaching a maximum of 95% in the collected samples. Nine ferret badger-associated rabies viruses were isolated, sequenced, and were phylogenetically clustered as a separate group. Nucleotide sequence revealed 99.4-99.8% homology within the ferret badger isolates, and 83-89% homology to the dog isolates in the nucleoprotein and glycoprotein genes in the same rabies endemic regions.
Our data suggest ferret badger-associated rabies has likely formed as an independent enzootic originating from dogs during the long-term rabies infestation in southeast China. The eventual role of FB rabies in public health remains unclear. However, management of ferret badger bites, rabies awareness and control in the related regions should be an immediate need.
PMCID: PMC2927599  PMID: 20691095
22.  Molecular Epidemiology of Rabies Viruses Circulating in Two Rabies Endemic Provinces of Laos, 2011–2012: Regional Diversity in Southeast Asia 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(3):e0003645.
Although rabies is endemic in Laos, genetic characterization of the viruses in this country is limited. There are growing concerns that development in the region may have increased transport of dog through Laos for regional dog meat consumption, and that this may cause spillover of the viruses from dogs brought here from other countries. This study was therefore undertaken to evaluate the current rabies situation and the genetic characteristics of rabies viruses currently circulating in Laos.
We determined the rate of rabies-positive samples by analyzing data from animal samples submitted to the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s National Animal Health Centre rabies laboratory from 2004 through 2011. Twenty-three rabies-positive samples were used for viral genetic characterization. Full genome sequencing was performed on two rabies viruses.
Rabies-positive samples increased substantially from 40.5% in 2004 to 60.2% in 2009 and continued at this level during the study period. More than 99% of the samples were from dogs, followed by cats and monkeys. Phylogenetic analyses showed that three rabies virus lineages belonging to the Southeast Asian cluster are currently circulating in Laos; these are closely related to viruses from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Lineages of the circulating Laos rabies viruses diverged from common ancestors as recently as 44.2 years and as much as 55.3 years ago, indicating periodic virus invasions.
There is an increasing trend of rabies in Laotian animals. Similar to other rabies-endemic countries, dogs are the main viral reservoir. Three viral lineages closely related to viruses from neighboring countries are currently circulating in Laos. Data provide evidence of periodic historic exchanges of the viruses with neighboring countries, but no recent invasion.
Author Summary
Laos is a land-locked rabies-endemic country in Southeast Asia that is surrounded by five rabies-endemic countries. Thus, there is increasing concern that the epidemiology of rabies in Laos is influenced by infrastructure development and economic activities, including international transport of dogs for meat consumption. Studies on the epidemiology of rabies are limited in this country. Therefore, to gain further information about the epidemiology and the genetic characteristics of circulating rabies viruses, this study was conducted using samples submitted to the rabies Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s National Animal Health Centre rabies laboratory. Out of 18 provinces, samples were submitted mainly from the capital Vientiane and Champasak province. Data from the period 2004 through 2011 showed a gradual increase in rabies-positive samples. Dogs were the main viral reservoir, and genetic analyses of samples collected from February 2011 through March 2012 showed that three viral lineages are currently circulating in the country. These rabies viruses are related to those of neighboring countries, indicating shared ancestry but no recent viral invasion.
PMCID: PMC4380407  PMID: 25825907
23.  Re-emergence of Rabies in the Guangxi Province of Southern China 
Human rabies cases in the Guangxi province of China decreased from 839 in 1982 to 24 in 1995, but subsequently underwent a sharp increase, and has since maintained a high level.
Methodology/Principal Findings
3,040 brain samples from normal dogs and cats were collected from 14 districts of Guangxi and assessed by RT-PCR. The brain samples showed an average rabies virus (RV) positivity rate of 3.26%, but reached 4.71% for the period Apr 2002 to Dec 2003. A total of 30 isolates were obtained from normal dogs and 28 isolates from rabid animals by the mouse inoculation test (MIT). Six representative group I and II RV isolates showed an LD50 of 10−5.35/ml to 10−6.19/ml. The reactivity of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to group I and II RV isolates from the Guangxi major epidemic showed that eight anti-G MAbs showed strong reactivity with isolates of group I and II with titers of ≥10,000; however, the MAbs 9-6, 13-3 and 12-14 showed lower reactivity. Phylogenetic analysis based on the G gene demonstrated that the Guangxi RV isolates have similar topologies with strong bootstrap values and are closely bonded. Alignment of deduced amino acids revealed that the mature G protein has four substitutions A96S, L132F, N436S, and A447I specific to group I, and 13 substitutions T90M, Y168C, S204G, T249I, P253S, S289T, V332I, Q382H, V427I, L474P, R463K Q486H, and T487N specific to group II, coinciding with the phylogenetic analysis of the isolates.
Re-emergence of human rabies has mainly occurred in rural areas of Guangxi since 1996. The human rabies incidence rate increased is related with RV positive rate of normal dogs. The Guangxi isolates tested showed a similar pathogenicity and antigenicity. The results of phylogenetic analysis coincide with that of alignment of deduced amino acids.
Author Summary
Rabies is a worldwide zoonosis disease and is of considerable public health threat and hazard. The Guangxi province of southern China is a severe rabies epidemic region. Human rabies cases decreased from 839 in 1982 to 24 in 1995 in Guangxi as a result of a dog vaccination campaign. However, the number subsequently underwent a sharp increase, and has since maintained a high level. This study reports the systematic surveillance of rabies in Guangxi over the 30-year period from 1982 to 2012. The data revealed that a re-emergence of human rabies has occurred mainly in rural areas of Guangxi since 1996. Human rabies incidence rate increased follows increased instances of RV positive normal dogs. To further understand this re-emergence of rabies, the biological properties of the rabies virus (RV), including the RV-positive rate of normal dogs, pathogenicity, antigenicity and evolution, have been evaluated. The Guangxi isolates all showed similar pathogenicity and antigenicity. These isolates also exhibited similar topologies with strong bootstrap values in the two groups and were closely bonded. Thus these findings will be helpful to understanding the epidemiological situation for rabies in Guangxi.
PMCID: PMC4183421  PMID: 25275567
24.  Rabies in South Indian Cows: An evidence of Sri Lankan Rabies virus Variant Infection Based on the Analysis of Partial Nucleoprotein Gene 
Rabies is a highly fatal non-suppurative encephalomyelitis, caused by the Rabies virus. Dogs are the major reservoir of rabies in India and are the source of infection to other domestic animals. In this report, laboratory investigation and molecular characterization of isolates from two cows with paralytic rabies is described. Necropsy brain samples from the two cows were tested for the presence of rabies antigen using a fluorescent antibody test and the results were confirmed using RT-PCR. Rabies virus was successfully isolated from both the brain samples in a murine neuroblastoma cell line. The phylogenetic analysis of partial nucleoprotein gene sequences of these isolates showed them to be of a variant of Rabies virus which is closely related to the Sri Lankan Rabies virus lineage as previously reported. In addition, partial nucleoprotein genes of 19 more Rabies virus isolates from southern India were sequenced and of these 11 isolates were found to be closely related to the Sri Lankan lineage. The deduced amino acid sequences of the partial nucleoprotein of the Indian isolates were 96–99% identical to the Sri Lankan isolates. This investigation re-confirms the previous speculations that the Sri Lankan variant of the virus may still be actively transmitted by animals in India.
PMCID: PMC3550735  PMID: 23637516
Rabies; India; Sri Lankan variant
25.  Rabies-Related Knowledge and Practices Among Persons At Risk of Bat Exposures in Thailand 
Rabies is a fatal encephalitis caused by lyssaviruses. Evidence of lyssavirus circulation has recently emerged in Southeast Asian bats. A cross-sectional study was conducted in Thailand to assess rabies-related knowledge and practices among persons regularly exposed to bats and bat habitats. The objectives were to identify deficiencies in rabies awareness, describe the occurrence of bat exposures, and explore factors associated with transdermal bat exposures.
A survey was administered to a convenience sample of adult guano miners, bat hunters, game wardens, and residents/personnel at Buddhist temples where mass bat roosting occurs. The questionnaire elicited information on demographics, experience with bat exposures, and rabies knowledge. Participants were also asked to describe actions they would take in response to a bat bite as well as actions for a bite from a potentially rabid animal. Bivariate analysis was used to compare responses between groups and multivariable logistic regression was used to explore factors independently associated with being bitten or scratched by a bat.
Of 106 people interviewed, 11 (10%) identified bats as a potential source of rabies. A history of a bat bite or scratch was reported by 29 (27%), and 38 (36%) stated either that they would do nothing or that they did not know what they would do in response to a bat bite. Guano miners were less likely than other groups to indicate animal bites as a mechanism of rabies transmission (68% vs. 90%, p = 0.03) and were less likely to say they would respond appropriately to a bat bite or scratch (61% vs. 27%, p = 0.003). Guano mining, bat hunting, and being in a bat cave or roost area more than 5 times a year were associated with history of a bat bite or scratch.
These findings indicate the need for educational outreach to raise awareness of bat rabies, promote exposure prevention, and ensure appropriate health-seeking behaviors for bat-inflicted wounds, particularly among at-risk groups in Thailand.
Author Summary
Rabies is a fatal encephalitis caused by lyssaviruses. Evidence of lyssavirus circulation has recently emerged in Southeast Asian bats. We surveyed persons regularly exposed to bats and bat habitats in Thailand to assess rabies‐related knowledge and practices. Targeted groups included guano miners, bat hunters, game wardens, and residents/personnel at Buddhist temples where mass bat roosting occurs. Of the 106 people interviewed, 11 (10%) identified bats as a source of rabies. History of a bat bite/scratch was reported by 29 (27%), and 38 (36%) expressed either that they would do nothing or that they did not know what they would do in response to a bat bite. Guano miners were less likely than other groups to indicate animal bites as a mechanism of transmission (68% vs. 90%, p=0.03) and were less likely to say they would respond appropriately to a bat bite or scratch (61% vs. 27%, p=0.003). These findings indicate a need for educational outreach in Thailand to raise awareness of bat rabies, promote exposure prevention, and ensure health‐seeking behaviors for bat‐inflicted wounds, particularly among at‐risk groups.
PMCID: PMC3125144  PMID: 21738801

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