Molecular epidemiology of the rabies virus in Slovenia 1994-2010.

University of Ljubljana, Veterinary Faculty, Institute of Microbiology and Parasitology, Virology Unit, Gerbičeva 60, 1115 Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Veterinary Microbiology (Impact Factor: 2.73). 04/2011; 152(1-2):181-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2011.04.019
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A molecular epidemiology study was performed on a selection of 30 rabies-positive brain samples collected between 1994 and 2010 in Slovenia and originating from the red fox (n=19), badger (n=3), cattle (n=3), dog (n=2), cat (n=1), marten (n=1) and horse (n=1). Based on the comparison of 1092 and 672 nucleotide sequences of nucleoprotein (N) and partial glycoprotein (G) gene regions, a low genetic diversity of the circulating strains was detected, but both phylogenetic trees were consistent with the topology where partial nucleoprotein or glycoprotein genes were used. A high sequence identity in the N and G gene to rabies virus isolates from neighbouring countries was found. The Slovenian strains were clearly different from the vaccine strains SAD B19 and SAD Bern, which have been used in Slovenia since 1988.

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    ABSTRACT: Fox rabies re-emerged in north-eastern Italy at the end of 2008 and circulated until early 2011. As with previous rabies epidemics, the Italian cases were linked to the epidemiological situation in adjacent regions. To obtain a comprehensive picture of the dynamics of the recent Italian epidemic, we performed a detailed evolutionary analysis of RABVs circulating in north-eastern Italy. Sequences were obtained for the hyper-variable region of the nucleoprotein gene, the complete glycoprotein gene, and the intergenic region G-L from 113 selected fox rabies cases. We identified two viral genetic groups, here referred to as Italy-1 and Italy-2. Phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses revealed that both groups had been circulating in the Western Balkans and Slovenia in previous years and were only later introduced into Italy (into the Friuli Venezia Giulia region-FVG), occupying different areas of the Italian territories. Notably, viruses belonging to the Italy-1 group remained confined to the region of introduction and their spread was minimised by the implementation of oral fox vaccination campaigns. In contrast, Italy-2 viruses spread westward over a territory of 100 km from their first identification in FVG, likely crossing the northern territories where surveillance was inadequate. A genetic sub-group (Italy-2A), characterised by a unique amino acid mutation (D106A) in the N gene, was also observed to occupy a distinct geographic cluster. This molecular epidemiological analysis of the 2008-2011 fox rabies epidemic will contribute to future control programmes both at national and regional levels. In particular, our findings highlight the weaknesses of the national surveillance strategy in the period preceding rabies re-emergence, and of control plans implemented immediately after rabies notification, and underline the need of a coordinated approach at the regional level for both the surveillance and control of wildlife rabies.
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