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Genetic and Antigenetic Characterization of the Novel Kotalahti Bat Lyssavirus (KBLV)

There is a growing diversity of bat-associated lyssaviruses in the Old World. In August 2017, a dead Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii) tested positive for rabies and based on partial sequence analysis, the novel Kotalahti bat lyssavirus (KBLV) was identified. Because the bat was in an autolyzed state, isolation of KBLV was neither successful after three consecutive cell passages on cells nor in mice. Next generation sequencing (NGS) was applied using Ion Torrent ™ S5 technology coupled with target enrichment via hybridization-based capture (myBaits®) was used to sequence 99% of the genome, comprising of 11,878 nucleotides (nt). KBLV is most closely related to EBLV-2 (78.7% identity), followed by KHUV (79.0%) and BBLV (77.6%), supporting the assignment as phylogroup I lyssavirus. Interestingly, all of these lyssaviruses were also isolated from bat species of the genus Myotis, thus supporting that M. brandtii is likely the reservoir host. All information on antigenic and genetic divergence fulfil the species demarcation criteria by ICTV, so that we recommend KBLV as a novel species within the Lyssavirus genus. Next to sequence analyses, assignment to phylogroup I was functionally corroborated by cross-neutralization of G-deleted RABV, pseudotyped with KBLV-G by sera from RABV vaccinated humans. This suggests that conventional RABV vaccines also confer protection against the novel KBLV.


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