Pensioner dies of ultra-rare bat virus that last killed a human 35 years ago

A French pensioner has died from an extremely rare form of rabies that he reportedly caught from bats which had been living in his attic.

The man, who was in his 60s, died in Limoges, France, the National Rabies Reference Center has confirmed.

He was rushed to Limoges University Hospital in August 2019 with doctors saying they now believe he was bitten or scratched by a bat that nested in his attic.

The man tragically died at hospital with doctors at the time listing his official cause of death as encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, but medical experts said it was of unexplained origin.

As the origin was unexplained, samples were sent to the Parisian Necker hospital and the Institut Pasteur, aimed at identifying the causes of undocumented encephalitis.

The analysis showed that he had contracted the European Bat LyssaVirus type 1 (EBLV-1), harbored by bats and he was retrospectively diagnosed almost a year after his death.

The genus Lyssavirus includes the rabies virus traditionally associated with that disease.

This exceptional case has only now finally come to light after it's inclusion in a science article on and was subsequently highlighted by the regional daily Le Populaire du Center.

According to Laurent Dacheux, a researcher at the Institut Pasteur, it is also the first case of EBLV-1 discovered in mainland France.

Mr Dacheux claims there was a similar death in Russia in 1985, two other deaths involving another bat lyssavirus species, EBLV-2, in Finland in 1985 and one in Scotland in 2002.

The researcher points out that in France, rabies has been formally eradicated since 2001.

"The last case listed in France and concerning non-flying animals dates back to 1998," he said.

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