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Rabies: CDC develops new rapid test, Could lead to fewer shots

Rabies: CDC develops new rapid test, Could lead to fewer shotsA new rabies test developed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could mean people exposed to potentially rabid animals could forego the weeks-long regimen of shots to prevent the deadly disease.

The new test, designed for use in animals, can more easily and 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 test could help improve rabies testing in the United States and in resource-poor countries.

Currently, testing facilities in many countries in Africa and Asia most affected by rabies are not able to easily rule out the disease in animals that have bitten someone.

In the recent study, staff at 14 labs worldwide assessed nearly 3,000 animal brain samples from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, of which more than 1,000 were known to be infected with rabies virus.

In addition, it produced definitive findings for 80 samples that were inconclusive or untestable by the DFA test – and 29 of those were positive for rabies.

This study is the largest ever to validate usage of this type of test (a real-time RT-PCR) to diagnose rabies in animals.

New Rabies Test May Become Part of International StandardCurrently, the DFA test is the only internationally approved test to confirm rabies in animals.

However, the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health are considering adding PCR-based tests, such as the LN34 test, for primary diagnosis (meaning they could be used as stand-alone tests to confirm rabies, rather than being used with the DFA test).

CDC is working with the Association of Public Health Laboratories to develop rabies testing guidance that will help clinicians and laboratory staff decide which tests to run in different scenarios and which tests can be used to confirm rabies, either singly or in combination with other tests.

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