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

Maricruz Casares
May 17, 2018

According to the study results, the LN34 test, "correctly identified all direct fluorescent antibody (DFA)-positive samples as positive". The disease can take months to develop following a person's contact with a rabid animal.

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

"Quickly knowing who needs to receive rabies treatment, and who does not, will save lives and families' livelihoods", she said in a CDC news release.

Knowing whether an animal which has bitten somebody is rabid is therefore valuable information.

It's hoped the new test will make rabies screening more feasible in high-risk regions across Africa and Asia.

In the recent study, staff at 14 labs worldwide assessed almost 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.

Moreover, LN34 could decrease the number of inconclusive and false positive tests, thus eliminating unnecessary vaccine use.

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In addition, it produced definitive findings for 80 samples which were 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 11 false positive DFA test results. Only 1 sample was indeterminate using both tests. In the USA, most rabies cases involve wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

Most mammals can contract rabies, with bats a known vector or carrier of the disease - although the illness has been eliminted in the UK. "This study is the largest ever to validate usage of this type of test (a real-time PCR) to diagnose rabies in animals".

As such, a rapid diagnostic test for rabies in animals would ensure that potentially exposed individuals would receive treatment in a timely manner, increasing their chances of survival. Furthermore, LN34 is able to be run on now used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing platforms and can yield results from fresh, frozen, or decomposed animal tissue, as well as tissue "that has been fixed in blocks of paraffin to inactivate the virus".

And because the LN34 technology is more accessible in resource-poor nations - where vaccines are relatively costly and typically stored in urban centers that are days away from remote areas where people may experience animal bites - it could help target the available vaccines to those who really need them.

Therefore, worldwide organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Organizations for Animal Health are in the process of considering the use of PCR-based tests as stand-alone tests for the diagnosis of rabies.

LN34 could also offer advantages for testing in the United States. Experts estimate that rabies testing, prevention, and control cost $245 to $510 million annually in the United States.

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