Molecular Epidemiology and Evolution of European Bat Lyssavirus 2
Bat rabies cases in Europe are mainly attributed to two lyssaviruses, namely European Bat Lyssavirus 1 (EBLV-1) and European Bat Lyssavirus 2 (EBLV-2). Prior to the death of a bat worker in Finland in 1985, very few bat rabies cases were reported. Enhanced surveillance in the two subsequent years (1986–1987) identified 263 cases (more than a fifth of all reported cases to date). Between 1977 and 2016, 1183 cases of bat rabies were reported, with the vast majority (>97%) being attributed to EBLV-1. In contrast, there have been only 39 suspected cases of EBLV-2, of which 34 have been confirmed by virus typing and presently restricted to just two bat species; Myotis daubentonii and Myotis dasycneme. The limited number of EBLV-2 cases in Europe prompted the establishment of a network of European reference laboratories to collate all available viruses and data. Despite the relatively low number of EBLV-2 cases, a large amount of anomalous data has been published in the scientific literature, which we have here reviewed and clarified. In this review, 29 EBLV-2 full genome sequences have been analysed to further our understanding of the diversity and molecular evolution of EBLV-2 in Europe. Analysis of the 29 complete EBLV-2 genome sequences clearly corroborated geographical relationships with all EBLV-2 sequences clustering at the country level irrespective of the gene studied. Further geographical clustering was also observed at a local level. There are high levels of homogeneity within the EBLV-2 species with nucleotide identities ranging from 95.5–100% and amino acid identities between 98.7% and 100%, despite the widespread distribution of the isolates both geographically and chronologically. The mean substitution rate for EBLV-2 across the five concatenated genes was 1.65 × 10−5, and evolutionary clock analysis confirms the slow evolution of EBLV-2 both between and within countries in Europe. This is further supported by the first detailed EBLV-2 intra-roost genomic analysis whereby a relatively high sequence homogeneity was found across the genomes of three EBLV-2 isolates obtained several years apart (2007, 2008, and 2014) from M. daubentonii at the same site (Stokesay Castle, Shropshire, UK).