Enhanced Rabies Surveillance Using a Direct Rapid Immunohistochemical Test

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Laboratory-based surveillance is integral for rabies prevention, control and management efforts. While the DFA is the gold standard for rabies diagnosis, there is a need to validate additional diagnostic techniques to improve rabies surveillance, particularly in developing countries. Here, we present a standard protocol for the DRIT as an alternative, laboratory or field-based testing option that uses light microscopy as compared to the DFA. Touch impressions of brain tissue collected from suspect animals are fixed in 10% buffered formalin. The DRIT uses rabies virus-specific monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies (conjugated to biotin), a streptavidin-peroxidase enzyme, and a chromogen reporter (such as acetyl 3-amino-9-ethylcarbazole) to detect viral inclusions within infected tissue. In approximately 1 h, a brain tissue sample can be tested and interpreted by the DRIT. Evaluation of suspect animal brains tested from a variety of species in North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe have illustrated high sensitivity and specificity by the DRIT approaching 100% with results compared to DFA. Since 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (USDA WS) program has conducted large-scale enhanced rabies surveillance efforts using the DRIT to test >94,000 samples collected from wildlife in strategic rabies management areas. The DRIT provides a powerful, economical tool for rabies diagnosis that can be used by laboratorians and field biologists to improve current rabies surveillance, prevention and control programs globally.