Despite the recognized stability of rabies virus, differences among isolates from different species have been found. This work was carried out with the aim to identify antigenic and genomic differences in Brazilian rabies virus isolates and to verify whether such alterations would bear any relationship with the different hosts for the virus in nature. For that, 79 Brazilian rabies viruses isolated from different host species and from distinct regions within Brazil were submitted to antigenic characterization with a panel of 11 monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) directed to lyssavirus antigens and to genomic analyses by the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) amplification of the N gene followed by restriction endonuclease analysis (REA). In addition, the nucleotide sequences of part of the N gene (225 bp) of seven isolates, taken as representative of the majority of the viruses under study, were determined. The analyses with the Mabs and RT-PCR/REA allowed the identification of two major groups of variants, the first formed by most isolates of cattle and bats and the second formed by viruses of dog origin. Partial sequencing of the N gene confirmed the similarity among isolates from cattle origin and those of vampire bats. However, viruses from non-haematophagous bats exhibited consistent differences from those of vampire bat isolates. Such findings suggest that the variants have evolved fairly stable modifications, which are not altered after passage in a dead-end host of a distinct species. No association could be established between antigenic or genomic alterations and geographic distribution of the isolates, which suggests that evolution of the virus has been directed to adaptation to the host species
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