European bat lyssaviruses (EBLVs)
European bat lyssaviruses (EBLVs) belong to the Lyssavirus genus of the Rhabdovirus family, and form a group of negative single stranded RNA viruses with an almost worldwide distribution. The genus Lyssavirus can be divided in seven genotypes, including EBLV1 being genotype V and EBLV2 being genotype VI. Other genotypes include classical rabies, RABV (I), Lagos bat virus, LBV (II), Mokola virus MOKV (III) and Australian bat Lyssavirus (ABLV).
Bat surveillance sampling
Rabies in bats in Europe
EBLVs have been demonstrated in several bat species and more bat species may be susceptible to EBLVs. In the Netherlands, classical rabies (genotype I lyssaviruses) has been eradicated in the early nineties, but EBLVs are endemic in bats. The serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) is considered the main reservoir of EBLV1in the Netherlands and surrounding countries in Europe. The reservoir species of EBLV2 are bats of the Myotis genus, exclusively Myotis Dascycneme, the Pond bat and Myotis daubentonii,
Public Health hazard
Bat rabies is considered a public health threat and an important zoonosis in countries where these viruses are endemic in bats. A bite of an EBLV infected bat may cause a fatal encephalitis in humans. To date four fatal cases of EBLV infection have been demonstrated in humans. The most recent case was a 56-year old bat worker in 2002 in Scotland who was bitten in his hand by a Daubenton’s bat.
Rabies prevention and control
In order to prevent rabies in humans, person victims of biting incidents with rabies suspected animals are subjected to a rabies post exposure profylaxis according WHO recommendation (WHO/EMC/ZOO/96.6). Bats involved in contact incidents in the Netherlands are send in for lyssavirus testing if the bat is available, or can be captured in case it is alive.
Surveillance of bat lyssaviruses
In order to have a clear picture of the rabies incidence and distribution in native bat species in the Netherlands, data of bats tested for rabies are collected and analyzed subsequently. To molecularly characterize the circulating EBLVs, RT-PCR amplification products of EBLV RNAs are sequenced and analyzed phylogenetically. Besides testing of grounded bats and bats involved in biting incidents (reactive surveillance), bats are actively sampled for virus testing (pro-active surveillance).