Objectives: Domestic dogs are the main reservoir of rabies virus (RABV) infection in Nigeria, thus surveillance of rabies in dog populations is crucial in order to understand the patterns of spread of infection and ultimately devise an appropriate rabies control strategy. This study determined the presence of lyssavirus antigen in brain tissues and anti-rabies antibodies in sera of apparently healthy and suspected-rabid dogs slaughtered for human consumption at local markets in South-Eastern Nigeria.
Results: Our findings demonstrated that 8.3% (n = 23) of brain tissues were lyssavirus positive and 2.5% (n = 25) of sera had rabies antibody levels as percentage blocking of 70% and above correlating with a cut-off value ≥ 0.5 IU/mL in the fluorescent antibody neutralization test. There was an inverse correlation between lyssavirus positivity and rabies antibody levels confirming that infected individuals most often do not develop virus neutralizing antibodies to the disease. The low percentage of rabies antibodies in this dog population suggests a susceptible population at high risk to RABV infection. These findings highlight a huge challenge to national rabies programs and subsequent elimination of the disease from Nigeria, considering that majority of dogs are confined to rural communal areas, where parenteral dog vaccination is not routinely undertaken.
Keywords: Antibodies; Antigen; DFA; Dogs; ELISA; Lyssavirus.