Whole Genome Sequencing and Phylogenetic Analysis of Rabies Viruses from Bats in Connecticut, USA, 2018-2019

Viruses. 2021 Dec 13;13(12):2500. doi: 10.3390/v13122500.


We performed whole genome sequencing and genetic characterization of rabies viruses (RABV) detected in bats submitted to the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) during 2018-2019. Among 88 bats submitted to CVMDL, six brain samples (6.8%, 95% confidence interval: 1.6% to 12.1%) tested positive by direct fluorescent antibody test. RABVs were detected in big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus, n = 4), a hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus, n = 1), and an unidentified bat species (n = 1). Complete coding sequences of four out of six detected RABVs were obtained. In phylogenetic analysis, the RABVs (18-62, 18-4347, and 19-2274) from big brown bats belong to the bats EF-E1 clade, clustering with RABVs detected from the same bat species in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The bat RABV (19-2898) detected from the migratory hoary bat belongs to the bats LC clade, clustering with the eleven viruses detected from the same species in Arizona, Washington, Idaho, and Tennessee. The approach used in this study generated novel data regarding genetic relationships of RABV variants, including their reservoirs, and their spatial origin and it would be useful as reference data for future investigations on RABV in North America. Continued surveillance and genome sequencing of bat RABV would be needed to monitor virus evolution and transmission, and to assess the emergence of genetic mutations that may be relevant for public health.

Keywords: bat; epidemiology; genome sequencing; phylogenetic analysis; rabies; virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Rabies virus / classification
  • Rabies virus / genetics*
  • Whole Genome Sequencing / methods*