Genetic divergence of rabies viruses from bat species of Colorado, USA

Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases

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Molecular epidemiological studies have linked many cryptic human rabies cases in the United States with exposure to rabies virus (RV) variants associated with insectivorous bats. In Colorado, bats accounted for 98% of all reported animal rabies cases between 1977 and 1996. The genetic divergence of RV was investigated in bat and terrestrial animal specimens that were submitted for rabies diagnosis to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Colorado, USA. RV isolates from animal specimens across the United States were also included in the analysis. Phylogenetic analyses were performed on partial nucleoprotein (N) gene sequences, which revealed seven principal clades. RV associated with the colonial big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, an bats of the genus Myotis were found to segregate into two distinct clades (I and IV). Clade I was harbored by E. fuscus and Myotis species, but was also identified in terrestrial animals such as domestic cats and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis). Clade IV was divided into subclades IVA, IVB, and IVC; IVA was identified in E. fuscus, and Myotis species bats, and also in a fox; subclades IVB and IVC circulated predominantly in E. fuscus. Clade II was formed by big free-tailed bat (Nyctinomops macrotis) and striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) samples. Clade III included RVs that are maintained by generally solitary, migratory bats such as the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) and bats of the genus Lasiurus. Big brown bats were found to harbor this RV variant. None of the Colorado specimens segregated with clades V and VII that harbor RVs associated with terrestrial animals. Different species of bats had the same RV variant, indicating active inter-species rabies transmission. In Colorado, animal rabies occurs principally in bats, and the identification of bat RVs in cat, gray fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and striped skunks demonstrated the importance of rabies spillover from bats to domestic and terrestrial wildlife species.

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Journal Article
Genetic divergence of rabies viruses from bat species of Colorado, USA
Series title:
Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Year Published:
Mary Ann Liebert Publications
Contributing office(s):
Fort Collins Science Center
12 p.
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