Prevalence of Rabies Antibodies in Neotropical Bat Communities in Fragmented Landscapes in Puebla, Mexico
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2010

Oscar Rico1, MSc; Elizabeth Loza-Rubio2, PhD; Edith Rojas2, PhD; Rodrigo Medellín3, PhD; Gerardo Suzán1, PhD

1Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, UNAM, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México, Mexico; 2Centro Nacional de Microbiología Veterinaria, INIFAP, Cuajimalpa, Ciudad de México, Mexico; 3Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México, Mexico

Read the Spanish translation: Prevalencia de Anticuerpos Contra Rabia en Comunidades de Muerciélagos Neotropicales en Paisajes Fragmentados en Puebla, Mexico


Habitat loss and fragmentation have favored biodiversity loss, changes in species assemblages and changes in the frequency of emerging and re-emerging zoonoses, such as rabies. Rabies virus has been isolated from different species of bats; however, the natural history and the way the virus is maintained in bat communities remain unknown. The aim of this study was to find out the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on rabies prevalence in bat communities in different habitat types in fragmented landscapes in Puebla, Mexico. We compared bat diversity and infection prevalence in three habitat types (interior, edges, and pastures) within four vegetation types (forest, mature acahual, young acahual, and grassland) in six fragments varying in size and isolation. We obtained blood samples from 194 bats belonging to 3 families, 12 genera, and 15 species. Species diversity was higher in grasslands (0.89 Simpson index), followed by forested areas (0.87) and edges (0.82). Sturnira lilium was the most common captured species in forested areas (28%) and edges (38%) while Sturnira ludovici dominated in grasslands (19%). Blood samples were analyzed at the National Center of Veterinary Microbiology, INIFAP and the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay ELI-Rab was performed. A total of 20% of captured bats were positive for rabies antibodies. Antibody prevalence at pastures sites was 27% followed by interior (22%) and edges (14%) without statistical significance (X2=1.94 DF=2, p>0.05). Prevalence of rabies antibodies was highest at mature acahual vegetation type at 34% followed by young acahual (17%) and forest (8%) and were significantly different (X2=9.9 DF=2, p<0.05). The high seroprevalence indicates that rabies virus is endemic in these bat communities and that these species are refractory or able to recover from rabies virus infection. Further studies are needed to understand the role of each species in viral maintenance. At this local spatial scale, our study concluded that the ecosystem is highly homogeneous. Further studies are needed to understand the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on the bat community assemblages and on the rabies infection dynamics in tropical areas where agricultural activities are established.


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Oscar Rico, MSc
Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia
Ciudad Universitaria
Coyoacán, Ciudad de México, Mexico

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