Rapid Rabies Test Could Help Shorten Treatment

MAY 16, 2018
A new rabies test developed at the CDC could mean people exposed to potentially rabid animals would forego the weeks-long regimen of shots to prevent the deadly disease. The test, designed for use in animals, can more precisely diagnose rabies infection, according to a study published today in PLOS One.

The current gold-standard for rabies testing in animals is the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test, which can only be interpreted by laboratory workers with special skills, extensive training, and a specific type of microscope. The new LN34 test is simpler, and easier to use than current tests.

During the pilot study, the LN34 test produced no false negatives, fewer false positive results, and fewer inconclusive results, than the DFA. The new test could allow doctors, and patients to make better informed decisions about who needs treatment for rabies, which is nearly always fatal once symptoms start.

LN34 correctly identified all DFA-positive samples as positive. In addition, it produced definitive findings for 80 samples that had been inconclusive, or untestable by the DFA test—and 29 of those were positive for rabies. Of the 3,000 samples tested, the LN34 identified one false negative, and there were 11 false positive DFA test results. Only one sample was indeterminate using both tests.

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