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Geography but not alternative host species explain the spread of raccoon rabies virus in Vermont

  • S. A. Nadin-Davis (a1), Q. Fu (a1), H. Trewby (a2), R. Biek (a2), R. H. Johnson (a3) and L. Real (a4)...

Abstract

In North America, the raccoon-associated variant of rabies virus (RRV) is of special concern, given its relatively rapid spread throughout the eastern USA and its potential public health impact due to high raccoon host densities in urban areas. Northward expansion of this epizootic included an outbreak in the Canadian province of Quebec in 2006–2009 due to trans-border spread from the State of Vermont. To inform a more proactive approach to future control efforts, this study uses phylogenetic analyses to explore the role of geography and alternative carnivore hosts in the dynamics of RRV spread within Vermont. Specifically, we sought to examine whether striped skunks, a species frequently infected by RRV, could be part of the maintenance host community. Whole genome sequencing of 160 RRV samples from Vermont and neighbouring US states were used for fine-scale phylogeographic analyses. Results, together with the complete surveillance record of raccoon rabies since its entry into Vermont in 1994, document incursions by two distinct viral lineages and identify topographical features of the landscape which have significantly influenced viral spread, resulting in a complex distribution pattern of viral variants throughout the state. Results of phylogenetic cluster analysis and discrete state reconstruction contained some evidence of skunk-to-skunk and skunk-to-raccoon transmission but overall failed to support a role for skunks as alternative maintenance hosts.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: S. A. Nadin-Davis, E-mail: susan.nadin-davis@canada.ca

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Current address: Food Import and Export Division, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Footnotes

References

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Supplementary materials

Nadin-Davis et al. supplementary material
Tables S1-S3 and Figures S1

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Geography but not alternative host species explain the spread of raccoon rabies virus in Vermont

  • S. A. Nadin-Davis (a1), Q. Fu (a1), H. Trewby (a2), R. Biek (a2), R. H. Johnson (a3) and L. Real (a4)...

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