One hundred and five rabies isolates obtained from domestic animals and insectivorous bats in Chile between 1977 and 1998 were molecularly characterized by limited sequence analysis of their nucleoprotein genes. These isolates were compared with viruses isolated from known domestic and wildlife rabies reservoirs in the Americas to identify potential reservoirs of rabies in Chile. The phylogenetic analyses showed that none of the Chilean isolates segregated with viruses from the terrestrial reservoirs. No non-rabies lyssaviruses were found in this study. The Chilean samples were not related to viruses of the sylvatic cycle maintained by the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) in Latin America. Five genetic variants were identified from insectivorous bats in Chile. The Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) was identified as the reservoir for the rabies genetic variant most frequently isolated in the country between 1977 and 1998. The close association of a group of viruses obtained from a domestic dog (Canis familiaris), Brazilian free-tailed bats, and a red bat (Lasiurus borealis) with viruses maintained by Lasiurus spp. in North America implicated species of this genus as the possible reservoirs of this particular genetic variant in Chile. Reservoirs for the other three variants remain unknown.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2