Bats host many viruses that are significant for human and domestic animal health, but the dynamics of these infections in their natural reservoir hosts remain poorly elucidated.In these, and other, systems, there is evidence that seasonal life-cycle events drive infection dynamics, directly impacting the risk of exposure to spillover hosts. Understanding these dynamics improves our ability to predict zoonotic spillover from the reservoir hosts.To this end, we followed henipavirus antibody levels of >100 individual E. helvum in a closed, captive, breeding population over a 30-month period, using a powerful novel antibody quantitation method.We demonstrate the presence of maternal antibodies in this system and accurately determine their longevity. We also present evidence of population-level persistence of viral infection and demonstrate periods of increased horizontal virus transmission associated with the pregnancy/lactation period.The novel findings of infection persistence and the effect of pregnancy on viral transmission, as well as an accurate quantitation of chiropteran maternal antiviral antibody half-life, provide fundamental baseline data for the continued study of viral infections in these important reservoir hosts.
Hendra virus; immune response; infection persistence; Luminex; maternal immunity; Nipah virus; paramyxoviruses; serology; zoonosis
The Middle East is a culturally and politically diverse region at the gateway between Europe, Africa and Asia. Spatial dynamics of the fatal zoonotic disease rabies among countries of the Middle East and surrounding regions is poorly understood. An improved understanding of virus distribution is necessary to direct control methods. Previous studies have suggested regular trans-boundary movement, but have been unable to infer direction. Here we address these issues, by investigating the evolution of 183 rabies virus isolates collected from over 20 countries between 1972 and 2014. We have undertaken a discrete phylogeographic analysis on a subset of 139 samples to infer where and when movements of rabies have occurred. We provide evidence for four genetically distinct clades with separate origins currently circulating in the Middle East and surrounding countries. Introductions of these viruses have been followed by regular and multidirectional trans-boundary movements in some parts of the region, but relative isolation in others. There is evidence for minimal regular incursion of rabies from Central and Eastern Asia. These data support current initiatives for regional collaboration that are essential for rabies elimination.
Despite being one of the oldest recognised infectious diseases, rabies continues to cause thousands of preventable human deaths per year. As a zoonotic disease, control of infection in the reservoir has been proven the most efficient route to reduction of human cases. In some regions, the epidemiology is well understood, with either dogs or wildlife known to be the primary reservoir and with little or no movement from, or into other regions. This is not the case in the Middle East, where rabies is underreported in animals and humans, there is little laboratory confirmation of infection, and the extent of rabies spread from country to country is not known. Previous studies have demonstrated trans-boundary movement of rabies but have been limited by a low number of available samples from some countries, and the direction of spread has been difficult to estimate. Here we use rabies virus partial genome sequences of 183 viruses from over 20 countries, combined with geographical and temporal information, to reconstruct the evolution of rabies viruses circulating in the Middle East. The results reveal an apparent barrier to spread between some regions but regular movement between others. These analyses will support policy on rabies control by indicating the relative importance of local control and animal movement restrictions when allocating resources.
As part of efforts to more fully understand the potential risks posed by West Nile virus (WNV) and Usutu virus (USUV) in the UK, and following on from previous reports of a potential bridge vector Culex modestus for these viruses, at wetland sites in North Kent, mosquito surveillance was undertaken more widely across the Isle of Sheppey, the Hoo Peninsula and the Kent mainland.
Larval surveys were conducted and Mosquito Magnet® adult traps were used to collect adult mosquitoes. Pools of female mosquitoes were tested for the presence of WNV using real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. A subset of samples was tested for USUV.
Culex modestus was found in both the pre-imaginal and imago stage at all five locations surveyed, accounting for 90% of adult mosquitoes collected. WNV or USUV were not detected in any sample.
Although no mosquitoes have been shown to be virus positive, the field survey data from this study demonstrated the dominance of an important bridge vector species for WNV in this region. Its wide geographical distribution highlights the need to update risk assessments on WNV introduction, and to maintain vigilance for WNV in the South East of England.
Culex modestus; United Kingdom; West Nile virus; Usutu virus; Culicidae; Mosquito; Surveillance
Avian reoviruses (ARVs) cause a range of disease presentations in domestic, captive and free-living bird species. ARVs have been reported as a cause of significant disease and mortality in free-living corvid species in North America and continental Europe. Until this report, there have been no confirmed cases of ARV-associated disease in British wild birds.
Sporadic individual magpie (Pica pica) mortality was detected at a single site in Buckinghamshire, England, April-September 2013. An adult female magpie was found moribund and subsequently died. Post-mortem examination identified hepatomegaly and splenomegaly as the most severe macroscopic abnormalities. Histopathological examination revealed extensive hepatic and splenic necrosis. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) identified virions of a size (circa 78 nm diameter) and morphology consistent with ARV in both the liver and the small intestinal (SI) contents. Nucleic acid extracted from pooled liver and spleen was positive on both a pan-reovirus nested PCR targeting the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase gene and a PCR using primers specific to the ARV sigma C protein gene. Virus isolated from the liver and the SI contents was characterised by a syncytial-type cytopathic effect, a reovirus-like appearance on TEM and sequence identical to that from PCR of tissues. In situ hybridisation confirmed co-localisation of ARV with lesions in the liver and spleen, implicating ARV as the causative agent. Splenic lymphoid atrophy and necrotic stomatitis associated with Aspergillus fumigatus infection were consistent with generalised immunosuppression and resultant opportunistic infection.
The pathology and comprehensive virus investigations in this case indicate ARV as the primary pathogen in this magpie, with concurrent secondary infection subsequent to immunosuppression, as has been observed with reoviral infections in other bird species. ARV should be considered as a differential diagnosis for magpie, and potentially other corvid, disease and mortality incidents. This is the first demonstration of ARV-associated mortality in a wild bird in Britain. The prevalence and significance of ARV infection in British wild birds, and its implications for poultry and captive bird health, are currently unknown.
Avian reovirus; Magpie; Pica pica; Hepatic necrosis; Splenic necrosis
Canine rabies can be effectively controlled by vaccination with readily available, high-quality vaccines. These vaccines should provide protection from challenge in healthy dogs, for the claimed period, for duration of immunity, which is often two or three years. It has been suggested that, in free-roaming dog populations where rabies is endemic, vaccine-induced protection may be compromised by immuno-suppression through malnutrition, infection and other stressors. This may reduce the proportion of dogs that seroconvert to the vaccine during vaccination campaigns and the duration of immunity of those dogs that seroconvert. Vaccination coverage may also be limited through insufficient vaccine delivery during vaccination campaigns and the loss of vaccinated individuals from populations through demographic processes. This is the first longitudinal study to evaluate temporal variations in rabies vaccine-induced serological responses, and factors associated with these variations, at the individual level in previously unvaccinated free-roaming dog populations. Individual-level serological and health-based data were collected from three cohorts of dogs in regions where rabies is endemic, one in South Africa and two in Indonesia. We found that the vast majority of dogs seroconverted to the vaccine; however, there was considerable variation in titres, partly attributable to illness and lactation at the time of vaccination. Furthermore, >70% of the dogs were vaccinated through community engagement and door-to-door vaccine delivery, even in Indonesia where the majority of the dogs needed to be caught by net on successive occasions for repeat blood sampling and vaccination. This demonstrates the feasibility of achieving population-level immunity in free-roaming dog populations in rabies-endemic regions. However, attrition of immune individuals through demographic processes and waning immunity necessitates repeat vaccination of populations within at least two years to ensure communities are protected from rabies. These findings support annual mass vaccination campaigns as the most effective means to control canine rabies.
Canine-mediated rabies is a horrific disease that claims tens of thousands of human lives every year, particularly in Asia and Africa. The disease can be effectively controlled through mass vaccination of dogs with high-quality vaccines; however, questions remain over the effectiveness of vaccination where the health status of free-roaming dogs may be compromised and the life expectancy and access to these dogs may be limited. This study evaluated rabies-vaccine induced immune responses and vaccine delivery in previously unvaccinated, free-roaming dog populations in two rabies endemic regions in Asia and Africa, to better understand the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns. We found that the majority of dogs seroconverted to the vaccine regardless of health status. Excellent vaccination coverage was achieved through community engagement and door-to-door vaccine delivery, even where the majority of the dogs needed to be caught by net for vaccination. However, attrition of immune individuals through demographic processes and waning immunity reinforces the importance of frequent and regular vaccination campaigns to ensure effective vaccination coverage is maintained.
In Grenada, West Indies, rabies is endemic, and is thought to be maintained in a wildlife host, the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) with occasional spillover into other hosts. Therefore, the present study was undertaken to improve understanding of rabies epidemiology in Grenada and to inform rabies control policy. Mongooses were trapped island-wide between April 2011 and March 2013 and examined for the presence of Rabies virus (RABV) antigen using the direct fluorescent antibody test (dFAT) and PCR, and for serum neutralizing antibodies (SNA) using the fluorescent antibody virus neutralization test (FAVN). An additional cohort of brain samples from clinical rabies suspects submitted between April 2011 and March 2014 were also investigated for the presence of virus. Two of the 171 (1.7%) live-trapped mongooses were RABV positive by FAT and PCR, and 20 (11.7%) had SNAs. Rabies was diagnosed in 31 of the submitted animals with suspicious clinical signs: 16 mongooses, 12 dogs, 2 cats and 1 goat. Our investigation has revealed that rabies infection spread from the northeast to the southwest of Grenada within the study period. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the viruses from Grenada formed a monophyletic clade within the cosmopolitan lineage with a common ancestor predicted to have occurred recently (6–23 years ago), and are distinct from those found in Cuba and Puerto Rico, where mongoose rabies is also endemic. These data suggest that it is likely that this specific strain of RABV was imported from European regions rather than the Americas. These data contribute essential information for any potential rabies control program in Grenada and demonstrate the importance of a sound evidence base for planning interventions.
Rabies, a fatal disease of animals and humans has been endemic in Grenada, West Indies, since the early 1900s. The small Indian mongoose, an introduced animal, is the most likely rabies reservoir, with spillover into domestic animals and humans. To control rabies, large numbers of mongooses were killed in the 1960s/1970s, but this effort did not alter long-term rabies dynamics. Vaccination of dogs, cats and livestock is efficient in protecting these animals, yet is not regularly undertaken. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in humans is routinely done and no human has died of rabies in Grenada since 1970. However, the threat of rabies and potential to adversely affect the tourism industry, are a burden on the Grenadian government and public. This study has re-evaluated the role of the mongoose in the maintenance of rabies in Grenada, and for the first time, the rabies virus circulating in Grenada has been described. Grenada offers optimal conditions for an oral rabies vaccination (ORV) program, being an island with strict live animal import controls, and a single wildlife rabies reservoir. Although further work is needed before an ORV campaign could be implemented, elimination of rabies from Grenada seems a realistic goal.
Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV), a novel lyssavirus, was isolated from a Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattererii), a chiropteran species with a widespread and abundant distribution across Europe. As a novel lyssavirus, the risks of BBLV to animal and human health are unknown and as such characterization both in vitro and in vivo was required to assess pathogenicity and vaccine protection. Full genome sequence analysis and antigenic cartography demonstrated that the German BBLV isolates are most closely related to European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) and Khujand virus and can be characterized within phylogroup I. In vivo characterization demonstrated that BBLV was pathogenic in mice when inoculated peripherally causing clinical signs typical for rabies encephalitis, with higher pathogenicity observed in juvenile mice. A limited vaccination-challenge experiment in mice was conducted and suggested that current vaccines would afford some protection against BBLV although further studies are warranted to determine a serological cut-off for protection.
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.
Human rabies infection continues to be a significant public health burden globally, and is occasionally imported to high income settings where the Milwaukee Protocol for intensive care management has recently been employed, with limited success in improving survival. Access to molecular diagnostics, pre- and post-mortem, and documentation of pathophysiological responses while using the Milwaukee protocol, can add useful insights for the future of rabies management.
A 58-year-old British Asian woman was referred to a regional general hospital in the UK with hydrophobia, anxiety and confusion nine weeks after receiving a dog bite in North West India. Nuchal skin biopsy, saliva, and a skin biopsy from the site of the dog bite wound, taken on the day of admission, all demonstrated the presence of rabies virus RNA. Within 48 hours sequence analysis of viral RNA confirmed the diagnosis and demonstrated that the virus was a strain closely related to canine rabies viruses circulating in South Asia. Her condition deteriorated rapidly with increased agitation and autonomic dysfunction. She was heavily sedated and intubated on the day after admission, treated according to a modified Milwaukee protocol, and remained stable until she developed heart block and profound acidosis and died on the eighth day. Analysis of autopsy samples showed a complete absence of rabies neutralizing antibody in cerebrospinal fluid and serum, and corresponding high levels of virus antigen and nucleic acid in brain and cerebrospinal fluid. Quantitative PCR showed virus was also distributed widely in peripheral tissues despite mild or undetectable histopathological changes. Vagus nerve branches in the heart showed neuritis, a probable Negri body but no demonstrable rabies antigen.
Rapid molecular diagnosis and strain typing is helpful in the management of human rabies infection. Post-mortem findings such as vagal neuritis highlight clinically important effects on the cardiovascular system which are typical for the clinical course of rabies in humans. Management guided by the Milwaukee protocol is feasible within well-resourced intensive care units, but its role in improving outcome for canine-derived rabies remains theoretical.
Rabies; Milwaukee protocol; Diagnosis
With the advent of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, the ability to generate large amounts of sequence data has revolutionized the genomics field. Most RNA viruses have relatively small genomes in comparison to other organisms and as such, would appear to be an obvious success story for the use of NGS technologies. However, due to the relatively low abundance of viral RNA in relation to host RNA, RNA viruses have proved relatively difficult to sequence using NGS technologies. Here we detail a simple, robust methodology, without the use of ultra-centrifugation, filtration or viral enrichment protocols, to prepare RNA from diagnostic clinical tissue samples, cell monolayers and tissue culture supernatant, for subsequent sequencing on the Roche 454 platform.
As representative RNA viruses, full genome sequence was successfully obtained from known lyssaviruses belonging to recognized species and a novel lyssavirus species using these protocols and assembling the reads using de novo algorithms. Furthermore, genome sequences were generated from considerably less than 200 ng RNA, indicating that manufacturers’ minimum template guidance is conservative. In addition to obtaining genome consensus sequence, a high proportion of SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) were identified in the majority of samples analyzed.
The approaches reported clearly facilitate successful full genome lyssavirus sequencing and can be universally applied to discovering and obtaining consensus genome sequences of RNA viruses from a variety of sources.
Next generation sequencing; Pyrosequencing; Lyssavirus; Genome; RNA; Virus
Lyssaviruses (family Rhabdoviridae) constitute one of the most important groups of viral zoonoses globally. All lyssaviruses cause the disease rabies, an acute progressive encephalitis for which, once symptoms occur, there is no effective cure. Currently available vaccines are highly protective against the predominantly circulating lyssavirus species. Using next-generation sequencing technologies, we have obtained the whole-genome sequence for a novel lyssavirus, Ikoma lyssavirus (IKOV), isolated from an African civet in Tanzania displaying clinical signs of rabies. Genetically, this virus is the most divergent within the genus Lyssavirus. Characterization of the genome will help to improve our understanding of lyssavirus diversity and enable investigation into vaccine-induced immunity and protection.
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.
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.
European bat lyssaviruses type 1 (EBLV-1) and type 2 (EBLV-2) circulate within bat populations throughout Europe and are capable of causing disease indistinguishable from that caused by classical rabies virus (RABV). However, the determinants of viral fitness and pathogenicity are poorly understood. Full-length genome clones based on the highly attenuated, non-neuroinvasive, RABV vaccine strain (SAD-B19) were constructed with the glycoprotein (G) of either SAD-B19 (SN), of EBLV-1 (SN-1) or EBLV-2 (SN-2). In vitro characterization of SN-1 and SN-2 in comparison to wild-type EBLVs demonstrated that the substitution of G affected the final virus titre and antigenicity. In vivo, following peripheral infection with a high viral dose (104 f.f.u.), animals infected with SN-1 had reduced survivorship relative to infection with SN, resulting in survivorship similar to animals infected with EBLV-1. The histopathological changes and antigen distribution observed for SN-1 were more representative of those observed with SN than with EBLV-1. EBLV-2 was unable to achieve a titre equivalent to that of the other viruses. Therefore, a reduced-dose experiment (103 f.f.u.) was undertaken in vivo to compare EBLV-2 and SN-2, which resulted in 100 % survivorship for all recombinant viruses (SN, SN-1 and SN-2) while clinical disease developed in mice infected with the EBLVs. These data indicate that interspecies replacement of G has an effect on virus titre in vitro, probably as a result of suboptimal G–matrix protein interactions, and influences the survival outcome following a peripheral challenge with a high virus titre in mice.
Evidence in support of a novel lyssavirus was obtained from brain samples of an African civet in Tanzania. Results of phylogenetic analysis of nucleoprotein gene sequences from representative Lyssavirus species and this novel lyssavirus provided strong empirical evidence that this is a new lyssavirus species, designated Ikoma lyssavirus.
Tanzania; African civet; rabies virus; West Caucasian bat virus; rabies virus; viruses; Lyssavirus; lyssaviruses; Ikoma lyssavirus; novel rabies virus; novel lyssavirus
Dengue viruses (DENV) cause countless human deaths each year, whilst West Nile virus (WNV) has re-emerged as an important human pathogen. There are currently no WNV or DENV vaccines licensed for human use, yet vaccines exist against other flaviviruses. To investigate flavivirus cross-reactivity, sera from a human cohort with a history of vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and yellow fever virus (YFV) were tested for antibodies by plaque reduction neutralization test. Neutralization of louping ill virus (LIV) occurred, but no significant neutralization of Murray Valley encephalitis virus was observed. Sera from some individuals vaccinated against TBEV and JEV neutralized WNV, which was enhanced by YFV vaccination in some recipients. Similarly, some individuals neutralized DENV-2, but this was not significantly influenced by YFV vaccination. Antigenic cartography techniques were used to generate a geometric illustration of the neutralization titres of selected sera against WNV, TBEV, JEV, LIV, YFV and DENV-2. This demonstrated the individual variation in antibody responses. Most sera had detectable titres against LIV and some had titres against WNV and DENV-2. Generally, LIV titres were similar to titres against TBEV, confirming the close antigenic relationship between TBEV and LIV. JEV was also antigenically closer to TBEV than WNV, using these sera. The use of sera from individuals vaccinated against multiple pathogens is unique relative to previous applications of antigenic cartography techniques. It is evident from these data that notable differences exist between amino acid sequence identity and mapped antigenic relationships within the family Flaviviridae.
Rabies virus (RABV) is enzootic throughout Africa, with the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) being the principal vector. Dog rabies is estimated to cause 24,000 human deaths per year in Africa, however, this estimate is still considered to be conservative. Two sub-Saharan African RABV lineages have been detected in West Africa. Lineage 2 is present throughout West Africa, whereas Africa 1a dominates in northern and eastern Africa, but has been detected in Nigeria and Gabon, and Africa 1b was previously absent from West Africa. We confirmed the presence of RABV in a cohort of 76 brain samples obtained from rabid animals in Ghana collected over an eighteen-month period (2007–2009). Phylogenetic analysis of the sequences obtained confirmed all viruses to be RABV, belonging to lineages previously detected in sub-Saharan Africa. However, unlike earlier reported studies that suggested a single lineage (Africa 2) circulates in West Africa, we identified viruses belonging to the Africa 2 lineage and both Africa 1 (a and b) sub-lineages. Phylogeographic Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo analysis of a 405 bp fragment of the RABV nucleoprotein gene from the 76 new sequences derived from Ghanaian animals suggest that within the Africa 2 lineage three clades co-circulate with their origins in other West African countries. Africa 1a is probably a western extension of a clade circulating in central Africa and the Africa 1b virus a probable recent introduction from eastern Africa. We also developed and tested a novel reverse-transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for the detection of RABV in African laboratories. This RT-LAMP was shown to detect both Africa 1 and 2 viruses, including its adaptation to a lateral flow device format for product visualization. These data suggest that RABV epidemiology is more complex than previously thought in West Africa and that there have been repeated introductions of RABV into Ghana. This analysis highlights the potential problems of individual developing nations implementing rabies control programmes in the absence of a regional programme.
Rabies virus (RABV) is widespread throughout Africa, with the domestic dog being the principal vector. Dog rabies is estimated to cause 24,000 human deaths per year in Africa, however, this estimate is still considered to be conservative. Two sub-Saharan African RABV lineages (Africa 1 and 2) are thought to circulate in western and central Africa. We confirmed the presence of RABV in a cohort of 76 brain samples obtained from rabid animals in Ghana collected from 2007 to 2009. In addition we developed and tested a novel molecular diagnostic assay for the detection of RABV, which offers an alternative RABV diagnostic tool for African laboratories. Our analysis of the genetic sequences obtained confirmed all viruses to be RABV, however, unlike previous studies we detected two sub-Saharan African RABV viruses (Africa 1 and 2) in this cohort, which included a single virus previously undetected in West Africa. We suggest that there has been repeated introduction of new RABVs into Ghana over a prolonged period from other West African countries and more recently from eastern Africa. These observations further highlight the problems of individual developing nations implementing rabies control programmes at a local, rather than regional level.
The inflexibility of existing serological techniques for detection of rabies in surveillance constrains the benefit to be gained from many current control strategies. We analysed 304 serum samples from Tanzanian dogs for the detection of rabies antibodies in a pseudotype assay using lentiviral vectors bearing the CVS-11 envelope glycoprotein. Compared with the widely used gold standard fluorescent antibody virus neutralisation assay, a specificity of 100% and sensitivity of 94.4% with a strong correlation of antibody titres (r = 0.915) were observed with the pseudotype assay. To increase the assay's surveillance specificity in Africa we incorporated the envelope glycoprotein of local viruses, Lagos bat virus, Duvenhage virus or Mokola virus and also cloned the lacZ gene to provide a reporter element. Neutralisation assays using pseudotypes bearing these glycoproteins reveal that they provide a greater sensitivity compared to similar live virus assays and will therefore allow a more accurate determination of the distribution of these highly pathogenic infections and the threat they pose to human health. Importantly, the CVS-11 pseudotypes were highly stable during freeze–thaw cycles and storage at room temperature. These results suggest the proposed pseudotype assay is a suitable option for undertaking lyssavirus serosurveillance in areas most affected by these infections.
Rabies virus; Lyssavirus; Africa; Pseudotype