Interferon in lyssavirus infection
Rabies is a zoonosis still claiming more than 50 000 human deaths per year. Typically, human cases are due to infection with rabies virus, the prototype of the Lyssavirus genus, but sporadic cases of rabies-like encephalitis caused by other lyssaviruses have been reported. In contrast to rabies virus, which has an extremely broad host range including many terrestrial warm-blooded animals, rabies-related viruses are associated predominantly with bats and rarely infect terrestrial species. In spite of a very close genetic relationship of rabies and rabiesrelated viruses, the factors determining the limited host range of rabies-related viruses are not clear. In the past years the importance of viral countermeasures against the host type I interferon system for establishment of an infection became evident. The rabies virus phosphoprotein (P) has emerged as a critical factor required for paralysing the signalling cascades leading to transcriptional activation of interferon genes as well as interferon signalling pathways, thereby limiting expression of antiviral and immune stimulatory genes. Comparative studies would be of interest in order to determine whether differential abilities of the lyssavirus P proteins contribute to the restricted host range of lyssaviruses.