Isolation, antigenicity and immunogenicity of Lleida bat lyssavirus
The lyssaviruses are an important group of viruses that cause a fatal encephalitis termed rabies. The prototypic lyssavirus, rabies virus, is predicted to cause more than 60 000 human fatalities annually. The burden of disease for the other lyssaviruses is undefined. The original reports for the recently described highly divergent Lleida bat lyssavirus were based on the detection of virus sequence alone. The successful isolation of live Lleida bat lyssavirus from the carcass of the original bat and in vitro characterization of this novel lyssavirus are described here. In addition, the ability of a human rabies vaccine to confer protective immunity following challenge with this divergent lyssavirus was assessed. Two different doses of Lleida bat lyssavirus were used to challenge vaccinated or naïve mice: a high dose of 100 focus-forming units (f.f.u.) 30 µl−1 and a 100-fold dilution of this dose, 1 f.f.u. 30 µl−1. Although all naïve control mice succumbed to the 100 f.f.u. 30 µl−1 challenge, 42 % (n=5/12) of those infected intracerebrally with 1 f.f.u. 30 µl−1 survived the challenge. In the high-challenge-dose group, 42 % of the vaccinated mice survived the challenge (n=5/12), whilst at the lower challenge dose, 33 % (n=4/12) survived to the end of the experiment. Interestingly, a high proportion of mice demonstrated a measurable virus-neutralizing antibody response, demonstrating that neutralizing antibody titres do not necessarily correlate with the outcome of infection via the intracerebral route. Assessing the ability of existing rabies vaccines to protect against novel divergent lyssaviruses is important for the development of future public health strategies.