Rabies virus variants from bats closely related to variants found in marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), a neglected source of human rabies infection in Brazil

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de Sousa, Larissa Leão Ferrer [UNIFESP]
de Souza, Tatiane Lira [UNIFESP]
Tibo, Luiz Henrique Soares [UNIFESP]
Moura, Francisco Bergson Pinheiro
Soares Júnior, Francisco Atualpa
Oliveira-Filho, Edmilson Ferreira de
Ludwig-Begall, Louisa
de Miranda, Gustavo Cabral
Santos, Robert Andreata [UNIFESP]
Janini, Luiz Mário Ramos [UNIFESP]
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Rabies is a fatal viral zoonosis caused by rabies virus (RABV). RABV infects the central nervous system and triggers acute encephalomyelitis in both humans and animals. Endemic in the Brazilian Northeast region, RABV emergence in distinct wildlife species has been identified as a source of human rabies infection and as such, constitutes a public health concern. Here, we performed post-mortem RABV analyses of 144 encephalic tissues from bats sampled from January to July 2022, belonging to 15 different species. We identified phylogenetically distinct RABV from Phyllostomidae and Molossidae bats circulating in Northeastern Brazil. Phylogenetic clustering revealed the close evolutionary relationship between RABV viruses circulating in bats and variants hosted in white-tufted marmosets, commonly captured to be kept as pets and linked to human rabies cases and deaths in Brazil. Our findings underline the urgent need to implement a phylogenetic-scale epidemiological surveillance platform to track multiple RABV variants which may pose a threat to both humans and animals. © 2023 Wiley Periodicals LLC.