Molecular and mathematical modeling analyses of inter-island transmission of rabies into a previously rabies-free island in the Philippines

Kentaro Tohma, Mariko Saito, Catalino S. Demetria, Daria L. Manalo, Beatriz P. Quiambao, Taro Kamigaki, Hitoshi Oshitani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Rabies is endemic in the Philippines and dog bites are a major cause of rabies cases in humans. The rabies control program has not been successful in eliminating rabies because of low vaccination coverage among dogs. Therefore, more effective and feasible strategies for rabies control are urgently required in the country. To control rabies, it is very important to know if inter-island transmission can occur because rabies can become endemic once the virus is introduced in areas that previously had no reported cases. Our molecular epidemiological study suggests that inter-island transmission events can occur; therefore, we further investigated these inter-island transmission using phylogenetic and modeling approaches.We investigate inter-island transmission between Luzon and Tablas Islands in the Philippines. Phylogenetic analysis and mathematical modeling demonstrate that there was a time lag of several months to a year from rabies introduction to initial case detection, indicating the difficulties in recognizing the initial rabies introductory event. There had been no rabies cases reported in Tablas Island; however, transmission chain was sustained on this island after the introduction of rabies virus because of low vaccination coverage among dogs.Across the islands, a rabies control program should include control of inter-island dog transportation and rabies vaccination to avoid viral introduction from the outside and to break transmission chains after viral introduction. However, this program has not yet been completely implemented and transmission chains following inter-island virus transmission are still observed. Local government units try to control dog transport; however, it should be more strictly controlled, and a continuous rabies control program should be implemented to prevent rabies spread even in rabies-free areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-28
Number of pages7
JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 1


  • Inter-island transmission
  • Philippines
  • Rabies virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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