[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rabies remains a serious problem in China with three epidemics since 1949 and the country in the midst of the third epidemic. Significantly, the control of each outbreak has been followed by a rapid reemergence of the disease. In 2005, the government implemented a rabies national surveillance program that included the collection and screening of almost 8,000 samples. In this work, we analyzed a Chinese dataset comprising 320 glycoprotein sequences covering 23 provinces and eight species, spanning the second and third epidemics. Specifically, we investigated whether the three epidemics are associated with a single reemerging lineage or a different lineage was responsible for each epidemic. Consistent with previous results, phylogenetic analysis identified six lineages, China I to VI. Analysis of the geographical composition of these lineages revealed they are consistent with human case data and reflect the gradual emergence of China I in the third epidemic. Initially, China I was restricted to south China and China II was dominant. However, as the epidemic began to spread into new areas, China I began to emerge, whereas China II remained confined to south China. By the latter part of the surveillance period, almost all isolates were China I and contributions from the remaining lineages were minimal. The prevalence of China II in the early stages of the third epidemic and its established presence in wildlife suggests that it too replaced a previously dominant lineage during the second epidemic. This lineage replacement may be a consequence of control programs that were dominated by dog culling efforts as the primary control method in the first two epidemics. This had the effect of reducing dominant strains to levels comparable with other localized background stains. Our results indicate the importance of effective control strategies for long term control of the disease.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: China has seen a massive resurgence of rabies cases in the last 15 years with more than 25,000 human fatalities. Initial cases were reported in the southwest but are now reported in almost every province. There have been several phylogenetic investigations into the origin and spread of the virus within China but few reports investigating the impact of the epidemic on neighboring countries. We therefore collected nucleoprotein sequences from China and South East Asia and investigated their phylogenetic and phylogeographic relationship. Our results indicate that within South East Asia, isolates mainly cluster according to their geographic origin. We found evidence of sporadic exchange of strains between neighboring countries, but it appears that the major strain responsible for the current Chinese epidemic has not been exported. This suggests that national geographical boundaries and border controls are effective at halting the spread of rabies from China into adjacent regions. We further investigated the geographic structure of Chinese sequences and found that the current epidemic is dominated by variant strains that were likely present at low levels in previous domestic epidemics. We also identified epidemiological linkages between high incidence provinces consistent with observations based on surveillance data from human rabies cases.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the number of rabies cases in China and an expansion in the geographic distribution of the virus. In spite of the seriousness of the outbreak and increasing number of fatalities, little is known about the phylogeography of the disease in China. In this study, we report an analysis of a set of Nucleocapsid sequences consisting of samples collected through the trial Chinese National Surveillance System as well as publicly available sequences. This sequence set represents the most comprehensive dataset from China to date, comprising 210 sequences (including 57 new samples) from 15 provinces and covering all epidemic regions. Using this dataset we investigated genetic diversity, patterns of distribution, and evolutionary history.
Our analysis indicates that the rabies virus in China is primarily defined by two clades that exhibit distinct population subdivision and translocation patterns and that contributed to the epidemic in different ways. The younger clade originated around 1992 and has properties that closely match the observed spread of the recent epidemic. The older clade originated around 1960 and has a dispersion pattern that suggests it represents a strain associated with a previous outbreak that remained at low levels throughout the country and reemerged in the current epidemic.
Our findings provide new insight into factors associated with the recent epidemic and are relevant to determining an effective policy for controlling the virus.