We determined the presence of rabies-virus–neutralizing antibodies (RVNA) in serum of 721 insectivorous bats of seven species captured, sampled, and released in Colorado and New Mexico, United States in 2003–2005. A subsample of 160 bats was tested for rabies-virus RNA in saliva. We sampled little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) at two maternity roosts in Larimer County, Colorado; big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) at three maternity roosts in Morgan County, Colorado; and big brown bats at five maternity roosts in Larimer County. We also sampled hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) and silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) captured while drinking or foraging over water in Bernalillo County, New Mexico and at various locations in Larimer County. Big brown bats, little brown bats, long-legged myotis (Myotis volans), long-eared myotis (Myotis evotis), and fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) were also sampled over water in Larimer County. All species except long-eared myotis included individuals with RVNA, with prevalences ranging from 7% in adult female silver-haired bats to 32% in adult female hoary bats. None of the bats had detectable rabies-virus RNA in oropharyngeal swabs, including 51 bats of 5 species that had RVNA in serum. Antibody-positive bats were present in nine of the 10 maternity colonies sampled. These data suggest that wild bats are commonly exposed to rabies virus and develop a humoral immune response suggesting some degree of viral replication, but many infections fail to progress to clinical disease.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2