To determine raccoon (Procyon lotor) susceptibility and serum neutralizing antibody response to a skunk salivary gland rabies virus, raccoons were inoculated with a rabies virus isolated from a naturally-infected striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). Raccoons were divided into four groups of three animals each. A dilution of the rabies virus suspension, 1024, 1034, or 1048, mouse intracerebral lethal dose50 (MICLD50), was administered into the masseter muscles of each animal. Three negative control animals received only diluent. Saliva and sera were collected on post-inoculation days 35, 63 and 92 for virus isolation and determination of serum neutralizing antibody titer. All animals survived the 92 day observation period and none exhibited the behavioral changes classically associated with clinical rabies virus infections. Rabies virus was not detected in the saliva of any raccoon and two of the three animals receiving the highest inoculum developed serum neutralizing antibodies (SNA). On day 92, a challenge suspension of New York City/Georgia (NYC/GA) strain rabies virus in fox salivary glands (1032 MICLD50) was administered to all 12 raccoons. All animals succumbed to rabies virus except the two animals that had earlier developed SNA. The results of this study provided evidence about the susceptibility of raccoons to a skunk rabies virus and demonstrated that exposed raccoons could survive for at least 92 days following exposure. Furthermore, animals developing SNA under such circumstances were capable of with-standing challenge with rabies virus that was fatal for seronegative raccoons.
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