Rabies outbreak in black-backed jackals ( Canis mesomelas), South Africa, 2016

Epidemiol Infect. 2022 Jan 7;150:e137. doi: 10.1017/S0950268821002685.


Rabies, a fatal and vaccine-preventable disease, is endemic throughout Africa. In 2016, a rabies outbreak occurred in black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) along the western boundary of Gauteng Province, South Africa. We investigated the possible drivers of the 2016 outbreak and established its origin. Using spatio-temporal locations of cases, we applied logistic regression and Geographic Information System techniques to investigate environmental covariates driving occurrences of emerging rabies cases in Gauteng Province. About 53.8% of laboratory-confirmed lyssaviruses in Gauteng Province in 2016 originated from jackals. Phylogenetic trees reconstructed from a partial region of the glycoprotein gene of these and historical rabies viruses (RABVs) demonstrated the lyssaviruses to be of canid origin with 97.7% nucleotide sequence similarity. The major cluster comprised jackal RABVs from the 2012 KwaZulu/Natal outbreak and the 2016 outbreak in Gauteng Province. The second cluster was composed of both jackal and dog RABVs. Both clusters correlated with independent RABV introductions into Gauteng by dogs and jackals, respectively. This study demonstrated an expansion of a jackal rabies cycle from north-west Province into Gauteng Province during the 2016 dry period, as jackals ranged widely in search for food resources leading to increased jackal-dog interactions, reminiscent of the intricate links of domestic and wildlife rabies cycles in South Africa.

Keywords: Black-backed jackal; C. mesomelas; Lyssaviruses; South Africa; cross-species transmission; rabies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Jackals
  • Lyssavirus*
  • Phylogeny
  • Rabies Vaccines*
  • Rabies virus*
  • Rabies* / epidemiology
  • Rabies* / veterinary
  • South Africa / epidemiology


  • Rabies Vaccines