Investigation of the role of healthy dogs as potential carriers of rabies virus

Yong-Zhen Zhang, Zhen F Fu, Ding-Ming Wang, Jing-Zhu Zhou, Zhao-Xiao Wang, Tai-Fu Lv, Cheng-Long Xiong, Yang Zou, Wen-Rong Yao, Ming-Hui Li, Guan-Mu Dong, Ge-Lin Xu, Michael Niezgoda, Ivan V Kuzmin, Charles E Rupprecht
Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 2008, 8 (3): 313-9
To investigate whether healthy animals are potential carriers of rabies virus in China, 153 domestic dogs were collected from a rabies enzootic area, Anlong county in Guizhou Province, and monitored for 6 months. Initially, findings of rabies virus antigen in the saliva of 15 dogs by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test suggested they might be carriers. These 15 dogs were kept under observation for 6 months. None of the dogs showed any clinical signs of rabies during the observation period. Moreover, using the ELISA test alone, detection of rabies virus antigen in saliva of some animals was not consistent during the observation period. However, none of the saliva samples collected either at the time of acquisition or during the observation period was found to be positive for rabies virus RNA by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Furthermore, neither viral antigen nor viral RNA was detected in the brain samples collected at the time of euthanasia. These results do not provide support for the contention that healthy dogs act as carriers in rabies. Caution is urged when preliminary and nondefinitive tests, such as ELISA, are used to infer clinical status related to rabies.

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