We determined the presence of rabies-virus-neutralizing antibodies (RVNA) in serum of 721 insectivorous bats of seven species captured, sampled, and released in Colorado and New Mexico, United States in 2003-2005. A subsample of 160 bats was tested for rabies-virus RNA in saliva. We sampled little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) at two maternity roosts in Larimer County, Colorado; big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) at three maternity roosts in Morgan County, Colorado; and big brown bats at five maternity roosts in Larimer County. We also sampled hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) and silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) captured while drinking or foraging over water in Bernalillo County, New Mexico and at various locations in Larimer County. Big brown bats, little brown bats, long-legged myotis (Myotis volans), long-eared myotis (Myotis evotis), and fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) were also sampled over water in Larimer County. All species except long-eared myotis included individuals with RVNA, with prevalences ranging from 7% in adult female silver-haired bats to 32% in adult female hoary bats. None of the bats had detectable rabies-virus RNA in oropharyngeal swabs, including 51 bats of 5 species that had RVNA in serum. Antibody-positive bats were present in nine of the 10 maternity colonies sampled. These data suggest that wild bats are commonly exposed to rabies virus and develop a humoral immune response suggesting some degree of viral replication, but many infections fail to progress to clinical disease.
Additional publication details
Prevalence of neutralizing antibodies to rabies virus in serum of seven species of insectivorous bats from Colorado and New Mexico, United States