A captive colony of adult Big Brown Bats (Eptesicus fuscus) was experimentally infected with a rabies virus (RABV) variant isolated from the salivary glands of a naturally infected Big Brown Bat and passaged once through murine neuroblastoma cell culture. Bats were divided into 11 groups, which were composed of one to three noninfected and one to three infected individuals each. Twenty of 38 animals were infected intramuscularly into both left and right masseter muscles; they received a total of 103.2 median mouse intracerebral lethal dose (MICLD50) of Big Brown Bat RABV variant. Experimental outcome after viral exposure was followed in the bats for 140 days postinoculation (PI). Of 20 infected bats, 16 developed clinical rabies, and the mean incubation period was 24 days (range: 13–52 days). Three infected bats never seroconverted and succumbed early to infection (13 days). Four infected bats that survived until the end of the experiment without any signs of disease maintained detectable antibody titers until the third month PI, peaking between days 13 and 43, and consequent drop-off below the threshold for detection occurred by day 140. Limited excretion of virus in saliva of infected bats during the clinical course of disease was observed in two individuals on days 13 and 15 PI (<24 hr prior to onset of clinical illness). No bat-to-bat transmission of RABV to noninfected bats was detected.
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Vol. 44 • No. 3