Most countries in Western Europe are currently free of rabies in terrestrial mammals. Nevertheless, rabies remains a residual risk to public health due to the natural circulation of bat-specific viruses, such as European bat lyssaviruses (EBLVs). European bat lyssavirus types 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and EBLV-2) are widely distributed throughout Europe, but little is known of their true prevalence and epidemiology. We report that only three out of 837 brains taken from bats submitted to the Swiss Rabies Centre between 1976 and 2009 were found by immunofluorescence (FAT) to be positive for EBLVs. All three positive cases were in Myotis daubentoni , from 1992, 1993 and 2002. In addition to this passive surveillance, we undertook a targeted survey in 2009, aimed at detecting lyssaviruses in live bats in Switzerland. A total of 237 bats of the species M. daubentoni , Myotis myotis , Eptesicus serotinus and Nyctalus noctula were captured at different sites in western Switzerland. Oropharyngeal swabs and blood from each individual were analysed by RT-PCR and rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test (RFFIT), respectively. RNA corresponding to EBLV-2 was detected from oropharyngeal swabs of a single M. daubentoni bat, but no infectious virus was found. Molecular phylogenetic analysis revealed that the corresponding sequence was closely related to the other EBLV-2 sequences identified in previous rabies isolates from Swiss bats (particularly to that found at Geneva in 2002). Three M. daubentoni bats were found to be seropositive by RFFIT. In conclusion, even though the prevalence is low in Switzerland, continuous management and surveillance are required to assess the potential risk to public health.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 1, 2010
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