A serological survey of 939 Neotropical bats of 22 species from an enzootic focus of Venezuelan encephalitis (VE) virus on the Pacific lowlands of Guatemala during 1971–1975 revealed VE virus specific antibodies in seven species, three belonging to the genus Artibeus. VE virus was isolated from the blood of one Uroderma bilobatum. Antibody frequency was considerably lower in bats than in terrestrial mammals, and tended to vary within any given species from locality to locality and from year to year. At the village of La Avellana where VE virus was most active, antibody rates in the two best-sampled Artibeus species were 0.14 in 1971, 0.11 in 1972, 0.03 in 1973, and 0.11 in 1975. The positive rate of 0.10 over all years at La Avellana for the genus Artibeus suggests that these and possibly other bats regularly are infected by VE virus, and may possibly serve as alternate hosts to maintain virus circulation if most terrestrial animals become immune.
Present address: Department of Veterinary Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706.