Productive Propagation of Rift Valley Fever Phlebovirus Vaccine Strain MP-12 in Rousettus aegyptiacus Fruit Bats
Rift Valley fever phlebovirus (RVFV), the causative agent of an emerging zoonotic disease in Africa and Arabia, can infect a variety of species, predominantly ruminants, camelids, and humans. While clinical symptoms are mostly absent in adult ruminants and camelids, RVFV infection may lead to a serious, sometimes fatal disease in humans. Virus transmissions between individuals and between species mainly occur through mosquito bites, but direct or even indirect contact with infectious materials may also result in infection. Although the main reservoir of the virus is not yet identified, small mammals such as rodents and bats may act as amplifying hosts. We therefore inoculated Rousettus aegyptiacus fruit bats that are abundant in northern Africa with the vaccine strain MP-12, in order to elucidate the general competence of this species for virus propagation and transmission. We were able to detect the RVFV genome in the spleen of each of these animals, and re-isolated the virus from the spleen and liver of some animals. Moreover, we were able to identify the Gc RVFV surface antigen in mild subacute multifocal necrotizing hepatic lesions of one bat which was sacrificed 7 days post exposure. These findings demonstrate that Rousettus aegyptiacus fruit bats can propagate RVFV.