Different types of rabies virus evolved independently in different parts of the Philippines, a news study found.
Researchers said research finding may help in control and subsequent eradication of rabies in the country.
Resulting to deaths of 200 to 300 Filipinos per year, rabies continues to be a major public health concern in the Philippines. As such, the National Rabies Prevention and Control Program (NRPCP) targets the complete national eradication of the virus by 2020.
During the study, Filipino and Japanese researchers joined forces to analyze 235 rabid animal brain samples collected in 11 of the 17 regions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Molecular analysis of the samples showed three major clades (major groups of viruses) and two distinct minor genogroups (genetically unique viruses) in the Philippines.
Research results showed the genetic diversity of rabies in the country could be largely due to their isolation from other groups of rabies due to the archipelagic geography of the country. Even though the viruses may have been transmitted from one island to another, inter-island transmissions may be rare and may not have had lasting effect on the viruses’ evolution.
Researchers discussed that the unique way by which the rabies viruses evolved in the country may just be the key in completely eradicating the disease in national level. Because the study showed that viral transmission between island groups is rare, anti-rabies campaigns must start at the grass root level to eliminate local virus strains, rather than implementing a widescale, nationwide operation. They also recommended the strict implementation of the Republic Act No. 9482 or Anti-Rabies Act of 2007 that mandates control of movement of dogs and cats between different islands in the country.
Following the success of similar island nations, such as Japan and the United Kingdom, in completely eradicating rabies, researchers said the Philippines is at the advantage in fighting the disease as long as evidenced-based strategies are implemented and strictly enforced.
Saito, M., Oshitani, H., Orbina, JRC., Tohma, K., de Guzman, AS., Kamigaki, Taro., Demetria, CS., Manalo, DL., Noguchi, A., Inoue, S., & Quiambao, BP. (April 2013). Genetic Diversity and Geographic Distribution of Genetically Distinct Rabies Viruses in the Philippines. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 7(4), 2144.