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Renewed Public Health Threat from Emerging Lyssaviruses

Pathogen discovery contributes to our knowledge of bat-borne viruses and is linked to the heightened interest globally in bats as recognised reservoirs of zoonotic agents. The transmission of lyssaviruses from bats-to-humans, domestic animals, or other wildlife species is uncommon, but interest in these pathogens remains due to their ability to cause an acute, progressive, invariably fatal encephalitis in humans. Consequently, the detection and characterisation of bat lyssaviruses continues to expand our knowledge of their phylogroup definition, viral diversity, host species association, geographical distribution, evolution, mechanisms for perpetuation, and the potential routes of transmission. Although the opportunity for lyssavirus cross-species transmission seems rare, adaptation in a new host and the possibility of onward transmission to humans requires continued investigation. Considering the limited efficacy of available rabies biologicals it is important to further our understanding of protective immunity to minimize the threat from these pathogens to public health. Hence, in addition to increased surveillance, the development of a niche pan-lyssavirus vaccine or therapeutic biologics for post-exposure prophylaxis for use against genetically divergent lyssaviruses should be an international priority as these emerging lyssaviruses remain a concern for global public health.

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