Antigenic and nucleotide sequence analyses have shown that two distinct biotypes of rabies virus
are circulating in South Africa. One of these typically infects members of the family Canidae, while
the other comprises a heterogeneous group of apparently indigenous viruses, infecting members of
the Viverridae family. In recent times, it has become evident that a considerable amount of crossinfection
may occur and the manifestation of viverrid rabies in non-viverrid animals in particular appears
to have become more commonplace. Consequently, the need to rapidly distinguish between
rabies virus biotypes has become increasingly important in efforts to monitor the epidemiology of rabies
in the southern African region. In this study, a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay was
developed to distinguish between these two groups of rabies viruses. Consensus oligonucleotides
were used to amplify the cytoplasmic domain of the rabies virus glycoprotein and the adjacent intergenic
region. The resultant amplicon was subsequently used as template in a second round heminested
PCR in the presence of type-specific primers, thereby successfully generating amplicons of
characteristic size for each biotype.
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