Several lyssavirus species occur in Africa (Rabies virus, Lagos bat virus, Mokola virus,
Duvenhage virus, Shimoni bat virus and Ikoma lyssavirus), displaying a high sequence
diversity between isolates belonging to the same species. There is limited information about
comparative pathogenesis of these African lyssaviruses and this precludes authoritative
opinion on the potential public and veterinary health impact. In this study, an analysis of
representative African lyssaviruses attempted to correlate viral genomic sequence similarities
and differences with the corresponding pathogenic profiles observed in mice. The study
demonstrated that the virus isolates evaluated could be lethal to mice when introduced
intramuscularly and that different isolates of the same lyssavirus species differ in their
virulence. Using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), viral RNA was detected in brain
tissue, but no viral RNA was detected in the salivary glands or blood of mice that succumbed
to infection. Comparison of known pathogenic domains indicated that pathogenicity is likely
to be dependent on multiple domains. Cumulatively, our results re-emphasised the realisation
that the pathogenicity of a lyssavirus species cannot be deduced based on studies of only a
single isolate of the species or a single pathogenic domain.
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W.M. (University of Pretoria) was the project leader,
L.H.N. (University of Pretoria) the project co-leader and
J.K. (University of Pretoria) performed the experiments. All
authors contributed to writing the manuscript.