Forty-five human rabies virus isolates from a wide geographical area of Brazil were characterized using an anti-nucleoprotein monoclonal antibody panel and by partial nucleotide sequencing analysis of the nucleoprotein gene. Three major antigenic groups related to the antigenic variants maintained in domestic dogs, vampire bats and marmosets were identified. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that the viruses from dog-related cases segregated into four sister clades: three associated with dog-endemic cycles in Brazil and one with the crab-eating fox cycle in the northeastern region of the country. The vampire bat- and marmoset-related viruses formed two independent groups. The topology of these clades was conserved when these samples were compared to virus representatives of the currently reported rabies endemic cycles in the Americas. These results indicated the presence of multiple endemic transmission cycles maintained in four different reservoirs, domestic dogs, crab-eating foxes, vampire bats and marmosets, which are being transmitted directly to humans and should be considered as a high-risk for rabies infection.
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