Ecological and anthropogenic drivers of rabies exposure in vampire bats: Implications for transmission and control

Daniel G. Streicker, Sergio Recuenco, William Valderrama, Jorge Gomez Benavides, Ivan Vargas, Víctor Pacheco, Rene E. Condori Condori, Joel Montgomery, Charles E. Rupprecht, Pejman Rohani, Sonia Altizer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations


Despite extensive culling of common vampire bats in Latin America, lethal human rabies outbreaks transmitted by this species are increasingly recognized, and livestock rabies occurs with striking frequency. To identify the individual and population-level factors driving rabies virus (RV) transmission in vampire bats, we conducted a longitudinal capture-recapture study in 20 vampire bat colonies spanning four regions of Peru. Serology demonstrated the circulation of RV in vampire bats from all regions in all years. Seropre-valence ranged from 3 to 28 per cent and was highest in juvenile and sub-adult bats. RV exposure was independent of bat colony size, consistent with an absence of population density thresholds for viral invasion and extinction. Culling campaigns implemented during our study failed to reduce seroprevalence and were perhaps counterproductive for disease control owing to the targeted removal of adults, but potentially greater importance of juvenile and sub-adult bats for transmission. These findings provide new insights into the mechanisms of RV maintenance in vampire bats and highlight the need for ecologically informed approaches to rabies prevention in Latin America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3384-3392
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1742
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chiroptera
  • Culling
  • Desmodus
  • Disease thresholds
  • Longitudinal
  • Lyssavirus


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