Molecular detection of rabies lyssaviruses from dogs in Southeastern Nigeria : evidence of transboundary transmission of rabies in West Africa

15 Feb 2021

Despite being the first country to register confirmed cases of Mokola and Lagos bat lyssaviruses (two very distant lyssaviruses), knowledge gaps, particularly on the molecular epidemiology of lyssaviruses, still exist in Nigeria. A total of 278 specimens were collected from dogs in southeastern Nigeria between October 2015 and July 2016, and 23 (8.3%) of these tested positive for lyssaviruses with the direct fluorescent antibody test (DFA). The lyssaviruses were genetically characterized by amplifying the highly conserved nucleoprotein (N) gene of the rabies lyssaviruses (RABVs) of the viral genome. Phylogenetic analyses of the nucleotide sequences showed that all the RABV sequences in this study were of the Africa-2 lineage. Our results demonstrated that transboundary transmission of rabies lyssavirus is a key event, given that one of the RABV sequences (MN196576) clustered with rabies variants from neighboring Niger Republic. Furthermore, three RABVs from dogs from Anambra State clustered separately forming a novel and distinct group. Our results demonstrated that transboundary transmission of RABLVs is a key driver in the spread of rabies in West Africa. In order for the successful control of this zoonotic disease, a multinational stepwise surveillance and elimination of rabies in Africa by 2030 is probably the solution for regional elimination.