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Population- and Variant-Based Genome Analyses of Viruses from Vaccine-Derived Rabies Cases Demonstrate Product Specific Clusters and Unique Patterns

Rabies in wildlife has been successfully controlled in parts of Europe and North America using oral rabies vaccination, i.e., the distribution of baits containing live-attenuated virus strains. Occasionally, these vaccines caused vaccine virus-induced rabies cases. To elucidate the mechanisms of genetic selection and the effect of viral populations on these rabies cases, a next generation sequencing approach as well as comprehensive data analyses of the genetic diversity of Street Alabama Dufferin (SAD) and ERA vaccine virus strains and vaccine-induced rabies cases from Canada and several European countries were conducted. As a result, twelve newly generated sets of sequencing data from Canada and Poland were added to a pool of previously investigated samples. While the population-based analysis showed a segregation of viruses of ERA vaccine-induced rabies cases from those of SAD Bern original (SAD Bernorig)-derived rabies cases, the in-depth variant analysis revealed three distinct combinations of selected variants for the ERA vaccine-induced cases, suggesting the presence of multiple replication-competent haplotypes in the investigated ERA-BHK21 vaccine. Our findings demonstrate the potential of a deep sequencing approach in combination with comprehensive analyses on the consensus, population, and variant level.



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