Because of its association with dogs, rabies virus (RABV) is still endemic in Thailand, where it is a serious public health problem. The genetic characterization of RABV in Thailand is limited. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the molecular epidemiology and genetic diversity of RABV in the endemic area. Viral RNA from 48 brain specimens from rabid dogs, collected in Bangkok and seven neighboring provinces in 2013–2014, was extracted and sequenced. The complete rabies glycoprotein (G) gene sequences (1575 nt) were aligned, and a phylogenetic analysis was performed using the maximum-likelihood method. All of the Thai rabies virus isolates belonged to lyssavirus genotype 1 and clustered in the same lineage as isolates from South East Asia (SEA) and China. The Thai rabies virus isolates formed two distinct clades, THA-1 and THA-2. Clade THA-1 was the predominant clade and could be divided into two subclades, THA-1A and THA-1B. Clade THA-2 was closely associated with human Thai isolates collected in a previous study. The overall mean rate of evolution based on the G gene was approximately 1.56 × 10 -4 substitutions/site/year. The genetic identities among the isolates from Thailand and other SEA countries were >88.4 % at the nucleotide sequence level and 95 % at the amino acid sequence level. The deduced amino acid sequences of the G proteins of the RABV isolates were compared. A single amino acid change (N194T) in subclade THA-1A distinguished the Thai RABV isolates from other RABV isolates. Our results suggest that these Thai dog RABV isolates share a common ancestor with the RABV isolates circulating in the endemic regions of SEA countries and China. Furthermore, there were strong genetic relationship to RABV from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. These data extend our understanding of the relatedness and genetic variation of RABV in Thailand.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: May 1, 2016
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