Dog rabies has commonly been associated with the eastern and southern border areas in Mpumalanga province, and the Nkomazi district in the east has been most affected. In other parts of the province, canid rabies has been under control for many years; however, in 2008, dog rabies spread to other parts of the province and resulted in a widespread outbreak. The objective of this study was to genetically characterize rabies viruses in an attempt to determine the source of this recent outbreak. Fifty-five rabies viruses were recovered from domestic dogs between 2000 and 2008 from Mpumalanga province and bordering areas. The viruses were characterized through nucleotide sequencing of the cytoplasmic domain of the glycoprotein gene and the G-L intergenic region. Phylogenetic analysis of these viruses and those previously characterized from Mpumalanga province and neighboring countries and provinces clearly supported the placement of the viruses from the current outbreak and those from Nkomazi district in one lineage. This demonstrated that the recent emergence of rabies in Mpumalanga province resulted from the spread of rabies from Nkomazi district. A comparative analysis demonstrated close genetic relationships among rabies viruses from Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, Swaziland, and Mozambique. Findings from this investigation have shown that rabies continues to pose a definite public health threat in South Africa, a situation similar to other African countries.

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