ABSTRACT

Rabies virus is recognized as one of the most fatal zoonotic agents affecting all mammals. Wild boars (Sus scrofa), classified as a large-size exotic invasive species in Brazil with nationwide hunting permitted, may serve as an extra blood source for the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus). Our aim was to document wild boar exposure to vampire bats to determine the seroprevalence of rabies virus antibodies in wild boars and to determine the immune status of hunters in southern and central-western Brazilian regions. Serum samples were collected from 80 wild boars and 49 hunters from natural and degraded areas of the Atlantic Forest biome of southern Brazil and in degraded areas of the Cerrado biome of central-western Brazil. The rabies-modified rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test was performed to detect the presence of rabies virus neutralizing antibodies in wild boars and considered seropositive when ≥0.10 IU/mL. The simplified fluorescence inhibition microtest was used for samples from hunters with a titer of ≥0.50 IU/mL and considered indicative of seroconversion. While 11% (9/80) of wild boars had serum titers for rabies exposure (≥0.10 IU/mL), 88% (43/49) of corresponding hunters lacked immune protective titers (<0.50 IU/mL). Wild boars showed serum titers for rabies likely due to contact with contaminated saliva of vampire bats or from infected carcass consumption. Additionally, Brazilian wild boars can be exposed to rabies and may play an important role in the sylvatic rabies cycle by providing a blood supply for vampire bats, highlighting the possibility of direct transmission of rabies virus to hunting dogs and hunters. These findings suggested hunters are a potential risk group for contracting rabies, and the World Health Organization may consider adding this occupation to their recommendations of who should receive the pre-exposure rabies vaccination.

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