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1.  Phylogenetic and Epidemiologic Evidence of Multiyear Incubation in Human Rabies 
Annals of neurology  2014;75(1):155-160.
Eight years after emigrating from Brazil, an otherwise healthy man developed rabies. An exposure prior to immigration was reported. Genetic analysis revealed a canine rabies virus variant found only in the patient’s home country, and the patient had not traveled internationally since immigrating to the United States. We describe how epidemiological, phylogenetic, and viral sequencing data provided confirmation that rabies encephalomyelitis may present after a long, multiyear incubation period, a consideration that previously has been hypothesized without the ability to exclude a more recent exposure. Accordingly, rabies should be considered in the diagnosis of any acute encephalitis, myelitis, or encephalomyelitis.
PMCID: PMC4118733  PMID: 24038455
2.  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
3.  The Phylogeography and Spatiotemporal Spread of South-Central Skunk Rabies Virus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82348.
The south-central skunk rabies virus (SCSK) is the most broadly distributed terrestrial viral lineage in North America. Skunk rabies has not been efficiently targeted by oral vaccination campaigns and represents a natural system of pathogen invasion, yielding insights to rabies emergence. In the present study we reconstructed spatiotemporal spread of SCSK in the whole territory of its circulation using a combination of Bayesian methods. The analysis based on 241 glycoprotein gene sequences demonstrated that SCSK is much more divergent phylogenetically than was appreciated previously. According to our analyses the SCSK originated in the territory of Texas ~170 years ago, and spread geographically during the following decades. The wavefront velocity in the northward direction was significantly greater than in the eastward and westward directions. Rivers (except the Mississippi River and Rio Grande River) did not constitute significant barriers for epizootic spread, in contrast to deserts and mountains. The mean dispersal rate of skunk rabies was lower than that of the raccoon and fox rabies. Viral lineages circulate in their areas with limited evidence of geographic spread during decades. However, spatiotemporal reconstruction shows that after a long period of stability the dispersal rate and wavefront velocity of SCSK are increasing. Our results indicate that there is a need to develop control measures for SCSK, and suggest how such measure can be implemented most efficiently. Our approach can be extrapolated to other rabies reservoirs and used as a tool for investigation of epizootic patterns and planning interventions towards disease elimination.
PMCID: PMC3849458  PMID: 24312657
4.  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

Results 1-4 (4)