Bat Rabies Surveillance in Europe

Schatz, J.; Fooks, A.R.; McElhinney, L.M.; Horton, D.; Echevarria, J.; Vázquez-Morón, S.; Kooi, E.A.; Rasmussen, T.B.; Müller, T.; Freuling, C.


Rabies is the oldest known zoonotic disease and was also the first recognized bat associated infection in humans. To date, four different lyssavirus species are the causative agents of rabies in European bats: the European Bat Lyssaviruses type 1 and 2 (EBLV-1, EBLV-2), the recently discovered putative new lyssavirus species Bokeloh Bat Lyssavirus (BBLV) and the West Caucasian Bat Virus (WCBV). Unlike in the new world, bat rabies cases in Europe are comparatively less frequent, possibly as a result of varying intensity of surveillance. Thus, the objective was to provide an assessment of the bat rabies surveillance data in Europe, taking both reported data to the WHO Rabies Bulletin Europe and published results into account. In Europe, 959 bat rabies cases were reported to the RBE in the time period 1977-2010 with the vast majority characterized as EBLV-1, frequently isolated in the Netherlands, North Germany, Denmark, Poland and also in parts of France and Spain. Most EBLV-2 isolates originated from the United Kingdom (UK) and the Netherlands, and EBLV-2 was also detected in Germany, Finland and Switzerland. Thus far, only one isolate of BBLV was found in Germany. Published passive bat rabies surveillance comprised testing of 28 of the 52 different European bat species for rabies. EBLV-1 was isolated exclusively from Serotine bats (Eptesicus serotinus and Eptesicus isabellinus), while EBLV-2 was detected in 14 Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii) and 5 Pond bats (Myotis dasycneme). A virus from a single Natterer's bat (Myotis nattereri) was characterized as BBLV. During active surveillance, only oral swabs from 2 Daubenton's bats (EBLV-2) and from several Eptesicus bats (EBLV-1) yielded virus positive RNA. Virus neutralizing antibodies against lyssaviruses were detected in various European bat species from different countries, and its value and implications are discussed.