Rabies virus in slaughtered dogs for meat consumption in Ghana: a potential risk for rabies transmission.
Dog-mediated rabies is responsible for approximately 60,000 human deaths annually worldwide. Although dog slaughter for human consumption and its potential risk for rabies transmission has been reported, mainly in some parts of Western Africa and South-East Asia, more information on this and factors that influence dog meat consumption is required for a better understanding from places like Ghana where the practice is common. We tested 144 brain tissues from apparently healthy dogs slaughtered for human consumption for the presence of rabies viruses using a Lyssavirus-specific real-Time RT-PCR. Positive samples were confirmed by virus genome sequencing. We also administered questionnaires to 541 dog owners from three regions in Ghana and evaluated factors that could influence dog meat consumption. We interacted with butchers and observed slaughtering and meat preparation procedures. Three out of 144 (2.1%) brain tissues from apparently healthy dogs tested positive for rabies virus RNA. Two of the viruses with complete genomes were distinct from one another, but both belonged to the Africa 2 lineage. The third virus with a partial genome fragment had high sequence identity to the other two and also belonged to the Africa 2 lineage. Almost half of the study participants practiced dog consumption [49% (265/541)]. Males were almost twice (cOR = 1.72, 95% CI (1.17-2.52), p-value = .006) as likely to consume dog meat compared to females. Likewise, the Frafra tribe from northern Ghana [cOR = 825.1, 95% CI (185.3-3672.9), p-value < .0001] and those with non-specific tribes [cOR = 47.05, 95% CI (10.18-217.41), p-value < .0001] presented with higher odds of dog consumption compared to Ewes. The butchers used bare hands in meat preparation. This study demonstrates the presence of rabies virus RNA in apparently healthy dogs slaughtered for human consumption in Ghana and suggests a potential risk for rabies transmission. Veterinary departments and local assemblies are recommended to monitor and regulate this practice.