In order to determine the susceptibility and serum neutralizing antibody response of Desmodus rotundus to rabies virus, bats were inoculated with a virus isolated from a naturally infected haematophagous bat. Bats were divided into four groups of 10 animals each. Dilutions of rabies virus containing 100, 1000, 10000 and 100000 MICLD50 (lethal dose 50% for mice inoculated by the intracerebral route) were administrated in the pectoral muscle. The presence of rabies virus was detected in brain and salivary glands by fluorescent antibody, mouse inoculation and RT–PCR. The observed mortality for each virus dose was 0, 20, 20 and 60% respectively. Serum neutralizing antibodies were tested for by the rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test, and antibody titres greater than 0·5 IU/ml were found in 53% of bats 30 days after virus inoculation. Resistance to infection was seen in bats that developed low or no detectable antibody response as well as in bats with high titres. Among the 10 bats that died of rabies, eight showed signs of paralytic rabies and two bats showed no clinical signs.
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