Featured research (4)

Rabies is a viral zoonosis transmitted by vampire bats across Latin America. Substantial public health and agricultural burdens remain, despite decades of bats culls and livestock vaccinations. Virally vectored vaccines that spread autonomously through bat populations are a theoretically appealing solution to managing rabies in its reservoir host. We investigate the biological and epidemiological suitability of a vampire bat betaherpesvirus (DrBHV) to act as a vaccine vector. In 25 sites across Peru with serological and/or molecular evidence of rabies circulation, DrBHV infects 80-100% of bats, suggesting potential for high population-level vaccine coverage. Phylogenetic analysis reveals host specificity within neotropical bats, limiting risks to non-target species. Finally, deep sequencing illustrates DrBHV super-infections in individual bats, implying that DrBHV-vectored vaccines might invade despite the highly prevalent wild-type virus. These results indicate DrBHV as a promising candidate vector for a transmissible rabies vaccine, and provide a framework to discover and evaluate candidate viral vectors for vaccines against bat-borne zoonoses.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is the latest in a distressing tally of viral infections—including Ebola, Nipah, rabies, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)— that have evolutionary origins or epidemiological associations with bats. This seeming preponderance of zoonoses has propelled bats from biomedical obscurity to the forefront of global health. Immunological traits have been proposed to allow bats to control viruses differently from other animals. However, incomplete baselines for broader comparisons across vertebrates and extensive immunological variation among bat species casts uncertainty on their distinctiveness as viral reservoirs. Moreover, common perceptions that bats asymptomatically harbor viruses more often than other animals and that their viruses are more diverse or pose systematically heightened zoonotic risk remain unresolved. The search for answers may inspire new approaches to manage disease threats to human and animal health.
Serology is a core component of the surveillance and management of viral zoonoses. Virus neutralization tests are a gold standard serological diagnostic, but requirements for large volumes of serum and high biosafety containment can limit widespread use. Here, focusing on Rabies lyssavirus, a globally important zoonosis, we developed a pseudotype micro-neutralization rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test (pmRFFIT) that overcomes these limitations. Specifically, we adapted an existing micro-neutralization test to use a green fluorescent protein-tagged murine leukemia virus pseudotype in lieu of pathogenic rabies virus, reducing the need for specialized reagents for antigen detection and enabling use in low-containment laboratories. We further used statistical models to generate rapid, quantitative predictions of the probability and titer of rabies virus neutralizing antibodies from microscopic imaging of neutralization outcomes. Using 47 serum samples from domestic dogs with neutralizing antibody titers estimated using the fluorescent antibody virus neutralization test (FAVN), pmRFFIT showed moderate sensitivity (78.79%) and high specificity (84.62%). Despite small conflicts, titer predictions were correlated across tests repeated on different dates both for dog samples (r = 0.93) and in a second dataset of sera from wild common vampire bats (r = 0.72, N = 41), indicating repeatability. Our test uses a starting volume of 3.5 µL of serum, estimates titers from a single dilution of serum rather than requiring multiple dilutions and end point titration, and may be adapted to target neutralizing antibodies against alternative lyssavirus species. The pmRFFIT enables high-throughput detection of rabies virus neutralizing antibodies in low-biocontainment settings and is suited to studies in wild or captive animals where large serum volumes cannot be obtained.
The evolutionary history of Rabies virus (RABV) has been dominated by cross-species transmission events, which led to the establishment of largely host species-specific transmission cycles. This chapter reviews lines of evidence from large-scale phylogenetic studies, outbreak investigations, and in vivo and in vitro infection experiments that have begun to identify microevolutionary changes that predispose RABV strains to infect new hosts or that are required for adaptation. We further discuss the still-enigmatic macroevolutionary origins and global spread of RABV in bats and carnivores. Finally, we illustrate the how the rapid evolution of RABV can be exploited to inform strategies to minimize the burden of this important zoonosis on human and animal health.

Lab head

Daniel Streicker
Department
  • Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
About Daniel Streicker
  • My research applied longitudinal field studies, host and virus phylogenetics and epidemiological modeling to understand the processes driving the persistence and cross-species emergence of pathogens. I have particular interest how such approaches can be used to promote evidence based control plans for viruses transmitted from bats. My research website is: streickergroup.wordpress.com

Members (8)

Godreuil Sylvain
  • Institute of Research for Development
Laura Bergner
  • University of Glasgow
Shiva Carlos
  • Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia
Carlos Tello
  • National University of San Marcos
Diana Meza
  • University of Glasgow
Hollie French
  • University of Glasgow
Annicet-Clotaire Dikoumba
  • Gabonese Military Health Service
Megan Griffiths
  • University of Glasgow
Julio A. Benavides
Julio A. Benavides
  • Not confirmed yet
Alice Broos
Alice Broos
  • Not confirmed yet
Anaïs Appelgren
Anaïs Appelgren
  • Not confirmed yet
Megan E Griffiths
Megan E Griffiths
  • Not confirmed yet