Background: Rabies is a global fatal infectious viral disease that is characterized by a high mortality after onset of clinical symptoms. Recently, there has been an increase in the incidence of rabies in China. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of human rabies and characterize the rabies virus nucleoprotein gene in dogs sampled from Fujian Province, Southeast China from 2002 to 2012.
Methods: Data pertaining to human rabies cases in Fujian Province during the period from 2002 through 2012 were collected, and the epidemiological profiles were described. The saliva and brain specimens were collected from dogs in Quanzhou, Longyan and Sanming cities of the province, and the rabies virus antigen was determined in the canine saliva specimens using an ELISA assay. Rabies virus RNA was extracted from canine brain specimens, and rabies virus nucleoprotein gene was amplified using a nested RT-PCR assay, followed by sequencing and genotyping.
Results: A total of 226 human rabies cases were reported in Fujian Province from 2002 to 2012, in which 197 cases were detected in three cities of Quanzhou, Longyan and Sanming. ELISA assay revealed positive rabies virus antigen in six of eight rabid dogs and 165 of 3492 seemingly healthy dogs. The full-length gene fragment of the rabies virus nucleoprotein gene was amplified from the brain specimens of seven rabid dogs and 12 seemingly healthy dogs. Sequence alignment and phylogenetic analysis revealed that these 19 rabies virus nucleoprotein genes all belonged to genotype I, and were classified into three genetic groups. Sequencing analysis showed a 99.7% to 100% intra-group and an 86.4% to 89.3% inter-group homology.
Conclusions: This study is the first description pertaining to the epidemiological characteristics of human rabies cases and characterization of the rabies virus nucleoprotein gene in dogs in Fujian Province, Southeast China. Our findings may provide valuable knowledge for the development of strategies targeting the prevention and control of rabies.
Keywords: Epidemiological features; Fujian Province; Nucleoprotein gene; Rabies; Rabies virus.