Antigenic and genetic characterization of a divergent African virus, Ikoma lyssavirus
- 1. Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), Weybridge, UK.
In 2009, a novel lyssavirus (subsequently named Ikoma lyssavirus, IKOV) was detected in the brain of an African civet (Civettictis civetta) with clinical rabies in the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The degree of nucleotide divergence between the genome of IKOV and those of other lyssaviruses predicted antigenic distinction from, and lack of protection provided by, available rabies vaccines. In addition, the index case was considered likely to be an incidental spillover event, and therefore the true reservoir of IKOV remained to be identified. The advent of sensitive molecular techniques has led to a rapid increase in the discovery of novel viruses. Detecting viral sequence alone, however, only allows for prediction of phenotypic characteristics and not their measurement. In the present study we describe the in vitro and in vivo characterization of IKOV, demonstrating that it is (1) pathogenic by peripheral inoculation in an animal model, (2) antigenically distinct from current rabies vaccine strains and (3) poorly neutralized by sera from humans and animals immunized against rabies. In a laboratory mouse model, no protection was elicited by a licensed rabies vaccine. We also investigated the role of bats as reservoirs of IKOV. We found no evidence for infection among 483 individuals of at least 13 bat species sampled across sites in the Serengeti and Southern Kenya.