The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article in PLOS One about a new rabies test that can more easily and precisely diagnose rabies infection in animals suspected of having rabies. With this new test, people exposed to potentially rabid animals may not have to undergo the month-long regimen of shots to make sure they don’t get the deadly disease. The test, called LN34, is simpler, easier to use, and reduces the number of false positive and inconclusive results. Ultimately, it will help doctors and patients make better decisions about who needs treatment for rabies, which is nearly always fatal when not treated correctly.
Rabies kills about 60,000 people annually, mostly in Africa and Asia. The disease can take months to emerge after a person has contact with a rabid animal. Once symptoms appear, rabies is nearly always fatal, so identifying cases and starting treatment early is critical to a patient’s survival. Having a quick, easy-to-run and accurate test to tell if an animal that bit someone is rabid could help doctors decide whether someone needs preventive treatment.
Three Things to Know
- The LN34 test can be run on PCR, a testing platform already widely used in the U.S. and worldwide, without any extra training. 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.
- CDC believes the new LN34 test could help improve rabies testing, both in the United States and in resource-poor countries. Currently, 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.
- The World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health are considering adding PCR-based tests for primary diagnosis (meaning they could be used as stand-alone tests to confirm rabies, rather than being used with the DFA test). In addition, CDC is working with the Association of Public Health Laboratories to develop rabies testing guidance that could help clinicians and laboratory staff know which tests to run in different scenarios and which tests can be used to confirm rabies, either singly or in combination with other tests.
Read the press release to learn more about this article.