Molecular Epidemiology of Rabies Viruses Circulating in Two Rabies Endemic Provinces of Laos, 2011–2012: Regional Diversity in Southeast Asia

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Abstract

Although rabies is endemic in Laos, genetic characterization of the viruses in this country is limited. There are growing concerns that development in the region may have increased transport of dog through Laos for regional dog meat consumption, and that this may cause spillover of the viruses from dogs brought here from other countries. This study was therefore undertaken to evaluate the current rabies situation and the genetic characteristics of rabies viruses currently circulating in Laos. We determined the rate of rabies-positive samples by analyzing data from animal samples submitted to the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s National Animal Health Centre rabies laboratory from 2004 through 2011. Twenty-three rabies-positive samples were used for viral genetic characterization. Full genome sequencing was performed on two rabies viruses. Rabies-positive samples increased substantially from 40.5% in 2004 to 60.2% in 2009 and continued at this level during the study period. More than 99% of the samples were from dogs, followed by cats and monkeys. Phylogenetic analyses showed that three rabies virus lineages belonging to the Southeast Asian cluster are currently circulating in Laos; these are closely related to viruses from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Lineages of the circulating Laos rabies viruses diverged from common ancestors as recently as 44.2 years and as much as 55.3 years ago, indicating periodic virus invasions. There is an increasing trend of rabies in Laotian animals. Similar to other rabies-endemic countries, dogs are the main viral reservoir. Three viral lineages closely related to viruses from neighboring countries are currently circulating in Laos. Data provide evidence of periodic historic exchanges of the viruses with neighboring countries, but no recent invasion.

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Ahmed, K., Phommachanh, P., Vorachith, P., Matsumoto, T., Lamaningao, P., Mori, D., … Nishizono, A. (2015). Molecular Epidemiology of Rabies Viruses Circulating in Two Rabies Endemic Provinces of Laos, 2011–2012: Regional Diversity in Southeast Asia. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0003645

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