Rabies Disease Ecology in the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)

EPA Grant Number: F6D30982
Title: Rabies Disease Ecology in the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)
Investigators: Turmelle, Amy S
Institution: University of Tennessee - Knoxville
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: August 1, 2006 through May 1, 2009
Project Amount: $111,030
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Public Health Sciences , Health Effects


The number of rabies cases involving humans has dropped considerably in the past 50 years, but surveillance indicates a shift in the implication of wildlife reservoirs. Analyses of surveillance data from 1958-2004 reveals that 46 of 50 (92%) cases of indigenous acquired rabies in humans have been caused by insectivorous bat RV, with the majority of patients having undocumented bite history. There is scant data on natural susceptibility and exposure to RV in wild colonies of insectivorous bats. This study will investigate the influence of ecological variation on seasonal susceptibility and exposure to RV in wild colonies of Brazilian free-tailed bats in the United States to understand implications for public health.


I will measure immune function, parasitism, RV exposure, and RV in the saliva of wild-caught Brazilian free-tailed bats. Climate variables and population densities will be measured at all sites, and incorporated with dispersal to understand spatial RV transmission between colonies. All data will be collected periodically from May through October from wild-caught bats in both man-made and natural roosts across the southern United States. The significance of field-measured susceptibility indices, in predicting response to RV infection, will be explored in a captive experimental setting.

Expected Results:

I expect there to be geographic and seasonal variation in susceptibility and RV exposure in wild colonies of Brazilian free-tailed bats across the United States. Within colonies, I would expect that RV antibody prevalence would be negatively correlated with levels of parasitism and positively correlated with immune function, as immune compromised individuals should be less likely to survive RV infection.

Supplemental Keywords:

rabies virus, chiroptera, tadarida brasiliensis, immune function, parasitism, disease bat,, Health, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Biochemistry, Environmental Monitoring, Risk Assessment, environmental risks, disease potential, wildlife populations, Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat, infectious organisms, Rabies, exposure assessment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final