Antigenic characterisation of lyssaviruses in South Africa

30 Sep 2014

There are at least six Lyssavirus species that have been isolated in Africa, which include classical rabies virus, Lagos bat virus, Mokola virus, Duvenhage virus, Shimoni bat virus and Ikoma lyssavirus. In this retrospective study, an analysis of the antigenic reactivity patterns of lyssaviruses in South Africa against a panel of 15 anti-nucleoprotein monoclonal antibodies was undertaken. A total of 624 brain specimens, collected between 2005 and 2009, confirmed as containing lyssavirus antigen by direct fluorescent antibody test, were subjected to antigenic differentiation. The lyssaviruses were differentiated into two species, namely rabies virus (99.5%) and Mokola virus (0.5%). Furthermore, rabies virus was further delineated into two common rabies biotypes in South Africa: canid and mongoose. Initially, it was found that the canid rabies biotype had two reactivity patterns; differential staining was observed with just one monoclonal antibody. This difference was likely to have been an artefact related to sample quality, as passage in cell culture restored staining. Mongoose rabies viruses were more heterogeneous, with seven antigenic reactivity patterns detected. Although Mokola viruses were identified in this study, prevalence and reservoir host species are yet to be established. These data demonstrate the usefulness of monoclonal antibody typing panels in lyssavirus surveillance with reference to emergence of new species or spread of rabies biotypes to new geographic zones.