Lyssa excreta: Defining parameters for fecal samples as a rabies virus surveillance method

Faith M. Walker, Jordyn R. Upton, Daryn Erickson, Zachary A. Barrand, Breezy Brock, Michael Valentine, Emma L. Federman, Emma M. Froehlich, Lolita Van Pelt, Lias Hastings, Daniel E. Sanchez, David L. Bergman, David M. Engelthaler, Crystal M. Hepp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is not possible to systematically screen the environment for rabies virus (RABV) using current approaches. We sought to determine under what conditions RABV is detectable from feces and other accessible samples from infected wildlife to broaden the number of biological samples that could be used to test for RABV. We employed a recently-developed quantitative RT-PCR assay called the “LN34 panlyssavirus real-time RT-PCR assay”, which is highly sensitive and specific for all variants of RABV. We harvested and tested brain tissue, fecal, and/or mouth swab samples from 25 confirmed RABV positive bats of six species. To determine if rabies RNA lasts in feces sufficiently long post-defecation to use it as a surveillance tool, we tested fecal samples from 10 bats at the time of sample collection and after 24 hours of exposure to ambient conditions, with an additional test on six bats out to 72 hours. To assess whether we could pool fecal pellets and still detect a positive, we generated dilutions of known positives at 1:1, 1:10, 1:50, and 1:200. For six individuals for which matched brain, mouth swab, and fecal samples were tested, results were positive for 100%, 67%, and 67%, respectively. For the first time test to 24 hours, 63% of feces that were positive at time 0 were still positive after 24 hours, and 50% of samples at 72 hours were positive across all three replicates. Pooling tests revealed that fecal positives were detected at 1:10 dilution, but not at 1:50 or 1:200. Our preliminary results suggest that fecal samples hold promise for a rapid and non-invasive environmental screening system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0294122
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1 January
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Lyssa excreta: Defining parameters for fecal samples as a rabies virus surveillance method'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this