Increased detection of Bat Rabies in Great Britain in 2018
PHE ePoster Library. McElhinney L. Apr 9, 2019; 259621; 15623
Dr. Lorraine McElhinney
Dr. Lorraine McElhinney
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Abstract The lyssaviruses constitute an important genus of viruses capable of causing the disease rabies. Rabies virus causes an estimated 59,000 human deaths each year. Non-rabies lyssaviruses are generally associated with bats. Across Europe, several bat lyssaviruses have been described. European bat 2 lyssavirus (EBLV-2) was first detected in Great Britain in 1996. A fatal case of EBLV-2 associated human rabies was reported in 2002 in a bat conservationist in Scotland. Prior to 2018, 15 EBLV-2 cases had been reported, all from Daubenton's bats, and no more than two infected bats had been detected in any one year. However, in June-July 2018 an unusual mortality event was observed in a Daubenton's bat roost in East Sussex. Twelve bats from the roost were submitted for lyssavirus screening under the APHA passive surveillance scheme. The high mortality coincided with a heatwave in England. Many of the carcasses submitted were severely decomposed and were untestable using standard rabies diagnostic tests such as fluorescent antibody test (FAT) and virus isolation. An initial FAT positive case in a testable bat led to a retrospective and more detailed investigation of the decomposed bats using real time RT-PCR. We subsequently detected EBLV-2 RNA in four Daubenton's bats from the roost. Three further EBLV-2 cases were detected in 2018 in Cambridgeshire, Northumberland and West Lothian. Additionally, a second bat lyssavirus (EBLV-1) was detected in two serotine bats for the first time in the UK. Further investigation into the basis for the high mortality and increased detection of bat rabies cases in 2018 is warranted. Public health guidance for UK health professionals and those bitten by a bat has been updated. Funding Supported by grants from Defra, the Scottish Government, and the Welsh Government (SE0431 and SV3500) and the EU H2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 653316).
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