Studies of Arthropod-Borne Virus Infections in Chiroptera

VIII. Evidence of Natural St. Louis Encephalitis Virus Infection in Bats

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  • Department of Microbiology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas 75235

During, and for several months after, epidemics of St. Louis encephalitis in Houston, Texas, in 1964 and in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1966 Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) were collected at intervals in these areas in south Texas and tested for evidence of infection with St. Louis encephalitis virus. Twenty-six strains of the virus were isolated from the blood or spleen tissue of 1.649 bats tested, and neutralizing antibodies against this agent were detected in 25 of 275 plasma samples from bats netted near Houston and in 108 of 388 plasma samples from bats collected in Corpus Christi. St. Louis encephalitis virus was isolated from bats collected in virtually every month of the year, demonstrating the persistence of infection with SLE virus in this bat species throughout the observation period. Rio Bravo virus and several as yet unidentified viruses were also isolated from the bats.