Maintenance of the haematophagous bat Desmodus rotundus in captivity for experimental studies on rabies
Current knowledge concerning rabies transmission by the haematophagous bat Desmodus rotundus is considerable. However, many aspects of the relationship between haematophagous bats and rabies still remain uninvestigated or contradictory. In an attempt to investigate some of these aspects, our group designed a cage system developed for the purpose of experimentally investigating rabies infections and the oral rabies immunization of haematophagous bats. The cages are made of polycarbonate, a transparent material that allows for total visualization of the bats for observation, photos and video monitoring and resistant to effects to bats excreta. Nine cages with independent air supply and exhaust systems are maintained on a stand. A prefilter unit using inner and outer HEPA filters guarantees air supply to bats through the cage interior, and air exhaustion provides for safe conditions for researchers. Drinking bottles are located externally. Adequate consumption of defibrinated blood, weight maintenance, low bat mortality (16.4%) and longevity are demonstrated herein. The maintenance of bats in these cages decreases the necessity of handling them and is consistent with the conclusion that the bats adapt well to captivity in this type of cage.