Presence of European bat lyssavirus RNAs in apparently healthy Rousettus aegyptiacus bats
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Apparently healthy Rousettus aegyptiacus bats were randomly chosen from a Dutch colony naturally infected with European bat lyssavirus subgenotype 1a (EBL1a). These bats were euthanised three months after the first evidence of an EBL1a infection in the colony. EBL1a genomic and antigenomic RNAs of the nucleoprotein gene were detected by nested reverse transcriptase PCR in 75% of the examined Rousettus aegyptiacus bats. The EBL1a RNAs of the nucleo-protein gene were detected mainly in brain tissues, but also in other organs. EBL1a messenger RNAs of the nucleoprotein gene and the glycoprotein gene were detected in brain tissues. The standard fluorescent antibody test revealed the presence of lyssavirus antigens in brain tissues from 7 (17.5%) Rousettus aegyptiacus bats. Furthermore, EBL1a could not be detected by virus isolation on murine neuro-blastoma cells or by intracerebral inoculation of suckling mice. Neutralising antibodies directed against EBL1 were detected in 11% of the examined bats. This study shows that at least 85% of the apparently healthy Rousettus aegyptiacus bats must have been infected with EBL1a, and that these bats may survive from an EBL1a infection. Furthermore, the study supports the possibility of a long-term maintenance of EBL1a genome in Rousettus aegyptiacus bats.
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