Virus isolates from three important reservoirs for rabies in Africa (domestic dogs, jackals and yellow
mongooses) were compared by their reaction with a panel of monoclonal antibodies directed to the
nucleocapsid protein and by the nucleotide sequence of a 200 base pair segment of the nucleocapsid
gene. Although antigenically dissimilar, the variants commonly transmitted in dogs and jackals were
very closely related by genetic analysis. Phylogenetic analysis and historical accounts support a common
lineage for these variants in both past and present reservoirs for rabies in Europe. Two additional
variants, distinct from the dog or jackal variant, were found in yellow mongoose samples and nucleotide
sequence from these animals showed more divergence than any other group of samples. These variants
and a third variant for which no host species could be identified, were shown to form two additional
genetic groups only distantly related to each other. These three variants and a previously identified
variant in Nigeria may be indigenous to African carnivores.
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