Evolutionary history of African mongoose rabies

N Van Zyl, W Markotter, L H Nel
Virus Research 2010, 150 (1): 93-102
Two biotypes or variants of rabies virus (RABV) occur in southern Africa. These variants are respectively adapted to hosts belonging to the Canidae family (the canid variant) and hosts belonging to the Herpestidae family (the mongoose variant). Due to the distinct host adaptation and differences in epidemiology and pathogenesis, it has been hypothesized that the two variants were introduced into Africa at different times. The objective of this study was to investigate the molecular phylogeny of representative RABV isolates of the mongoose variant towards a better understanding of the origins of this group. The study was based on an analysis of the full nucleoprotein and glycoprotein gene sequences of a panel of 27 viruses. Phylogenetic analysis of this dataset confirmed extended evolutionary adaptation of isolates in specific geographic areas. The evolutionary dynamics of this virus variant was investigated using Bayesian methodology, allowing for rate variation among viral lineages. Molecular clock analysis estimated the age of the African mongoose RABV to be approximately 200 years old, which is in concurrence with literature describing rabies in mongooses since the early 1800 s.

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