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Volume 1, Number 4—October 1995

The Ascension of Wildlife Rabies: A Cause for Public Health Concern or Intervention?

Charles E. RupprechtComments to Author , Jean S. Smith, Makonnen Fekadu, and James E. Childs.
Author affiliations: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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Table 1

Recognized members of the genus Lyssavirus, family Rhabdoviridae

Lyssavirus Reservoir History
Rabies Found worldwide, except for a few island nations, Australia, and Antarctica. Endemic and sometimes epidemic in a wide variety of mammalian species, including wild and domestic canids, mustelids, viverrids, and insectivorous and hematophagous bats; >25,000 human cases/year, almost all in areas of uncontrolled domestic dog rabies. Descriptions of clinical disease in Greek and Roman documents. In the late 1800s, Pasteur attenuated the virus by serial passage and desiccation to vaccinate humans and animals. Pathognomonic inclusions in nerve cells described by Negri in 1903. An immunofluorescence test for rabies viral antigen developed in the 1950s.
Lagos bat Unknown, but probably fruit bats. 10 cases identified to date, including 3 in domestic animals, in Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Senegal, and Ethiopia. No known human deaths. Isolated in 1956 from brain of Nigerian fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) at Lagos Island, Nigeria, but not characterized until 1970; 3 cases in domestic animals initially diagnosed as rabies, but weak immunofluorescence led to suspicion of "rabies-related" virus, later confirmed by typing with monoclonal antibodies or nucleotide sequence analysis. Marginal cross-protection with rabies vaccines.
Mokola Unknown, but probably an insectivore or rodent species. Cases identified in Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, and Ethiopia; 17 cases known, including 9 domestic animals and 2 human cases. First isolated from Crocidura sp. shrews trapped in Mokola Forest near Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1968. Characterized in 1970. Like Lagos bat virus, evidence of infection with Mokola was recognized only by poor reaction with anti-rabies reagents. 7 domestic animal cases in Zimbabwe in 1981 and 1982 prompted serologic survey and identification of antibodies to Mokola in rodents, especially bushveld gerbils (Tatera leucogaster). No cross-protection with rabies vaccines.
Duvenhage Unknown, but probably insectivorous bats. Cases identified in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Senegal; 4 cases known, including 1 human death. No cases in domestic animals. First identified in 1970 in rabies-like encephalitis in man bitten by an insectivorous bat near Pretoria, South Africa. Virus named after the victim. Although Negri bodies detected in histologic examination of brain tissue, negative immunofluorescence tests led to suspicion of rabies-related virus, subsequently confirmed by antigenic and genetic typing. Marginal cross-protection with rabies vaccines.
European bat Lyssavirus 1 (EBLV1) European insectivorous bats (probably Eptesicus serotinus); >400 cases in bats. 1 confirmed human case in 1985 and a suspect case in 1977. No known domestic animal cases. Although cases in European bats were reported as early as 1954, identification of the virus was not attempted until 1985, when the first of 100 infected bats was reported in Denmark and Germany. Almost all cases are in the common European house bat, E serotinus. Marginal cross-protection with rabies vaccines.
European bat Lyssavirus 2 (EBLV2) European insectivorous bats (probably Myotis dasycneme); 5 cases identified, including 1 human death. No known domestic animal cases. First identified in isolate from Swiss bat biologist who died of rabies in Finland. Marginal cross-protection with rabies vaccines.

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