Molecular Epidemiology of Bat Lyssaviruses in Europe

McElhinney, L.M.; Marston, D.A.; Leech, S.; Freuling, C.; Poel, W.H.M. van der; Echevarria, J.; Vazquez-Moron, S.; Horton, D.L.; Müller, T.; Fooks, A.R.


Bat rabies cases in Europe are principally attributed to two lyssaviruses, namely European bat lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1) and European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2). Between 1977 and 2011, 961 cases of bat rabies were reported to Rabies Bulletin Europe, with the vast majority (>97%) being attributed to EBLV-1. There have been 25 suspected cases of EBLV-2, of which 22 have been confirmed. In addition, two single isolations of unique lyssaviruses from European insectivorous bats were reported in south-west Russia in 2002 (West Caucasian bat virus) and in Germany in 2010 (Bokeloh bat lyssavirus). In this review, we present phylogenetic analyses of the EBLV-1 and EBLV-2 using partial nucleoprotein (N) gene sequences. In particular, we have analysed all EBLV-2 cases for which viral sequences (N gene, 400 nucleotides) are available (n = 21). Oropharyngeal swabs collected from two healthy Myotis daubentonii during active surveillance programmes in Scotland and Switzerland also yielded viral RNA (EBLV-2). Despite the relatively low number of EBLV-2 cases, a surprisingly large amount of anomalous data has been published in the scientific literature and Genbank, which we have collated and clarified. For both viruses, geographical relationships are clearly defined on the phylogenetic analysis. Whilst there is no clear chronological clustering for either virus, there is some evidence for host specific relationships, particularly for EBLV-1 where more host variation has been observed. Further genomic regions must be studied, in particular for EBLV-1 isolates from Spain and the EBLV-2 isolates to provide support for the existence of sublineages.