Original Research

Rabies of canid biotype in wild dog (Lycaon pictus) and spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa in 2014–2015: Diagnosis, possible origins and implications for control

Claude T. Sabeta, Drienie Janse van Rensburg, Baby Phahladira, Debra Mohale, Robert F. Harrison-White, Carlien Esterhuyzen, June H. Williams
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 89 | a1517 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v89i0.1517 | © 2018 Claude T. Sabeta, Drienie Janse Van Rensburg, Baby Phahladira, Debra Mohale, Robert Harrison-White, Carlien Esterhuyzen, June H. Williams | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 March 2017 | Published: 26 April 2018

About the author(s)

Claude T. Sabeta, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, OIE Rabies Reference Laboratory, South Africa
Drienie Janse van Rensburg, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Baby Phahladira, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, OIE Rabies Reference Laboratory, South Africa
Debra Mohale, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, OIE Rabies Reference Laboratory, South Africa
Robert F. Harrison-White, Predator Research Project, Madikwe, South Africa
Carlien Esterhuyzen, Madikwe Conservancy Private Game Reserve, North West province, South Africa
June H. Williams, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Both domestic and wild carnivore species are commonly diagnosed with rabies virus (RABV) infection in South Africa. Although the majority of confirmed rabies cases in wild carnivore species are reported from the yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata), the rest are from other wild carnivores including the highly endangered wild dog (Lycaon pictus). Lyssavirus infection was confirmed in two wild dogs and a spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) in the Madikwe Game Reserve, North West province in South Africa, in 2014 and 2015, using a direct fluorescent antibody test and immunohistochemistry. There had been no new wild dog introductions to the Madikwe Game Reserve for many years and the wild dogs were last vaccinated against rabies approximately 11 years prior to the incident. The first euthanised wild dog was the last surviving of a break-away pack of 6, and the second was the last of a larger pack of 18, the rest of which died with no carcasses being found or carcasses too decomposed for sampling. Subsequent antigenic typing of the lyssaviruses indicated that they were canid RABVs. The RABVs originating from 22 wild carnivore species, 7 dogs, and a caprine, mostly from the North West province, were genetically characterised by targeting a partial region of the nucleoprotein gene. The nucleotide sequence analyses of these viruses and two previously characterised RABVs confirmed that the outbreak viruses were also canid rabies, phylogenetically clustering with virus isolates originating from black-backed jackals recovered between 2012 and 2015 from the North West province, and domestic dogs from neighbouring communal areas. The source(s) of the mortalities and possible reservoir host(s) for the virus could only be speculated upon from data on specific predator numbers, movements and behaviour, kills, park management and the changing environmental ecology, which were monitored closely in Madikwe over several years. The most likely rabies sources were from boundary fence contacts between wild carnivores within the park, with domestic dogs or cats and/or naturally occurring wild carnivores outside the park. The associated risk of zoonotic infection and threat to important and endangered predators may be mitigated through regional rabies control primarily in domestic dogs and cats, as well as by preventative vaccination of at-risk park employees and their pets. The importance of ongoing prophylactic rabies protection by regular vaccination of highly endangered wildlife carnivores and the submission of carcasses for rabies diagnosis of any wild or domestic animals behaving uncharacteristically or found dead is emphasised.

Keywords

African wild dog (lycaon pictus); canid rabies biotype; domestic carnivores; endangered wildlife carnivores; hyaena (crocuta crocuta); infectious disease; rabies; vaccination; zoonosis

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