1. College of Animal Science, Jilin Agricultural University, Changchun 130118, China 2. Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing 102206, China. 3.State Key Laboratory of Virology, Wuhan Institute of Virology Chinese Academy of Science, Wuhan, 430071, China
In recent years (2007 to 2011), although the overall number of rabies cases in China has decreased, there is evidence of emerging or re-emerging cases in regions without previous rabies cases or with low incidence of rabies. To investigate the origin and the factors affecting the spread of rabies in China, specimens were collected from 2007 to 2011 from provinces with emerging and re-emerging cases and tested for the presence of the rabies virus. Positive specimens were combined with sequences from GenBank to perform comparisons of homology and functional sites, and to carry out phylogenetic analyses. Out of these regions, five provinces had 9 positive specimens from canine and cattle, and 34 canine or human specimens were obtained from previously high-incidence provinces. Complete sequences of G gene were obtained for these samples. Homology of the sequences of these 43 specimens was 87%-100% at the nucleotide level and 93.7% -100% at the amino acid level. These G gene sequences were combined with reference sequence from GenBank and used to construct a phylogenetic tree. The results showed that 43 specimens were all assigned to China clade I and clade II, with all specimens from emerging and re-emerging areas placed within clade I. Specimens isolated from Shanxi and Inner Mongolia in 2011 were distinct from previously-isolated local strains and had closer homology to strains from Hebei, Beijing and Tianjin whereas new isolates from Shanghai were tightly clustered with strains isolated in the 1990s. Finally, Shaanxi isolates were clustered with strains from adjacent Sichuan. Our results suggest that the rabies cases in emerging and re-emerging areas in China in the last 5 years are a consequence of the epidemic spreading from of neighboring provinces and regions experiencing a serious epidemic of rabies.