Sixteen rabies isolates recently collected from mainland Turkey and two isolates held within a British archive were used to form a representative cohort from a range of vectors, and were analyzed to identify potential causes for an increase of rabies within the fox (Vulpes vulpes) population in Turkey. Each isolate was characterized by sequence analysis of the nucleoprotein gene and compared phylogenetically to the cohort, to isolates from neighboring countries and to isolates from continental Europe and Russia. From this analysis the isolates could be divided into three groups associated with geographic location. This included a western group, an eastern group, and one isolate that did not group with any other Turkish isolate. This observation was also found using the heteroduplex mobility assay as an alternative method for typing rabies virus isolates. Further comparison with isolates from neighboring countries suggests that this isolate was related to viruses present in Georgia and could represent a recent import to Turkey from that country. Within the two larger groups, sequence data were obtained from both infected dogs and foxes suggesting that there has been transmission of virus between these two species. The direction of transmission could not be identified by the phylogenetic analysis, although absence of rabies within the fox population in previous years suggests that this could represent a recent spillover from the domestic dog to the fox.
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Vol. 39 • No. 2