Adult female and juvenile Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana) were collected bimonthly at Lava Cave, New Mexico from May through September. The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of active rabies infection as well as to determine individual immune status in these hosts. All bats were bled and examined for rabies antibody (total antibody versus IgM) utilizing a modified serum neutralization test. The brains were removed and examined by the fluorescent rabies antibody (FRA) test. No significant difference was observed in the number of adults with rabies neutralizing antibody (total) over the study period. Significant differences in rabies neutralizing antibody (total) were observed among the juveniles sampled during July and August. The number of adults with IgM specific antibody was low (15 of 750, 2%) and did not fluctuate significantly. However, the number of juveniles with IgM antibody did show increased levels in August and September. The number of adults positive by the FRA was low (4 of 750, < 1%) and did not appear to fluctuate significantly over the study period. The number of juveniles positive by the FRA was three and one-half times higher than observed for the adults (14 of 600, 2%). These results indicate that the Mexican free-tailed bat appears to be exposed to rabies virus shortly after birth as evident by its immune status. The low prevalence (4 of 750, <1%) of active infection as determined by the FRA and mouse inoculation and the high prevalence (514 of 750, 69%) of IgG antibody in the adult females indicate that the Mexican free-tailed bat recovers from rabies virus infection.
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Vol. 25 • No. 4