NCEZID Innovations: Rabies

New Test Quickly Diagnoses Deadly Disease


Rabies is completely preventable, but it still kills about 60,000 people worldwide a year—mostly those who don’t know they were exposed or don’t have access to the series of shots that prevent rabies from developing (post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP). Once symptoms begin, the disease is nearly always fatal. In the United States, an estimated 40,000 people per year receive PEP after contact with a possibly rabid animal. Doctors need to know whether a biting animal has rabies, so they can determine whether their patients need rabies vaccinations. This can help save lives and target the shots to those who need them.


NCEZID experts have developed a new rabies test to quickly and accurately diagnose rabies in animals. The test is based on the popular PCR testing platform, meaning it can more easily be run and analyzed by lab staff without specialized training. As a result, it produces more accurate results and fewer false-positives than the current test. The new test is being validated across the United States and around the world. NCEZID hopes to soon make the test more broadly available to labs. The new test offers several advantages. It can be used in countries with limited resources, where staff already have been trained to use PCR tests for other viruses and bacteria. It can also test samples in a way that avoids the need for refrigeration in the field

Bottom Line Up Front:

CDC experts have developed a new test to more quickly and accurately diagnose rabies virus in animals.