Fetuses were collected from four Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana) and a fetal bat cell (FBC) line was established and tested for its ability to support the replication of the ERA vaccine strain of rabies virus. Cytopathic effects were detected in ERA virus-inoculated as well as uninoculated FBC's. Immunoflorescent antibody testing of uninoculated FBC's provided no evidence for the presence of rabies virus. However, mice inoculated intracranially with supernatant fluid from uninoculated FBC's died. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunofluorescent antibody testing revealed rabies virus in the brains of these mice. Tests with a panel of monoclonal antibodies indicated that the isolate was the same as that isolated from Mexican free-tailed bats from the southwestern United States. We conclude that the fetuses from which the FBC line was derived had been infected in utero with rabies virus. We believe this may represent the first observation of prenatal transfer of rabies virus in naturally infected bats.

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