The virus was identified as part of a rabies surveillance research project funded by the Wellcome Trust and was investigated following an unusual incident when a child was attacked by a civet – a cat-like nocturnal mammal – in a part of the Serengeti which was thought to be rabies-free.
The samples that were collected tested positive for rabies at the Central Veterinary Laboratory, Dar es Salaam. Subsequent genetic tests showed that the virus was a new type of rabies virus that had not been previously described, but was similar to a bat rabies virus isolated in the Caucasian region of Eastern Europe.
Scientists believe the new virus is likely to originate in bats and that cross-over infection to civets and other mammalian species is likely to be relatively rare. However further studies are planned to determine the extent of infection and the degree of risk to human and animal health.
Professor Sarah Cleaveland, of the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: “The vast majority of human deaths from rabies are caused by bites from domestic dogs with rabies, which can be effectively controlled through mass dog vaccination campaigns.
“This new virus is unlikely to pose a threat to humans on the scale of that of dog rabies. However this research highlights the need for vigilance and maintaining good levels of surveillance. Read More