The inter-epizootic reservoir host of Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) remains unknown, although the namaqua rock rat, Aethomys namaquensis, as well as bats have been implicated. Bats can be asymptomatically infected with rabies, as well as several arboviruses; the possibility that they can act as host for RVFV therefore exists. To examine this possibility, 350 different samples (brain, liver, salivary glands and brown fat) obtained from 150 bats (comprising seven species) were tested for RVFV antigen using an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). None of the samples tested positive, but the ELISA proved to have limited sensitivity (> or = 10(3) TCID50/ml). In order to determine whether bats could be infected with RVFV, one Miniopterus schreibersii and two Eptesicus capensis bats were inoculated by the oral or intramuscular route with 100 ml and 30 ml, respectively, of a RVFV suspension with a titre of 10(6) TCID50/ml. None of the bats developed any clinical signs. A low concentration of RVFV antigen was found in the liver and urine of M. schreibersii, but not in brain tissue. A third E. capensis bat was inoculated by the intramuscular route and sacrificed on day 18. A low level of antigen was detected in the brown fat. These results demonstrate that bats can be infected with RVFV, and that further studies should be done to determine the potential of different bat species to act as reservoir hosts for RVFV during inter-epizootic periods.