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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 569712, 10 pages
Review Article

Laboratory Diagnosis of Human Rabies: Recent Advances

Department of Neurovirology, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Rabies, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore 560029, India

Received 31 August 2013; Accepted 26 September 2013

Academic Editors: H. Fickenscher and K. Ikuta

Copyright © 2013 Reeta Subramaniam Mani and Shampur Narayan Madhusudana. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Rabies, an acute progressive, fatal encephalomyelitis, transmitted most commonly through the bite of a rabid animal, is responsible for an estimated 61,000 human deaths worldwide. The true disease burden and public health impact due to rabies remain underestimated due to lack of sensitive laboratory diagnostic methods. Rapid diagnosis of rabies can help initiate prompt infection control and public health measures, obviate the need for unnecessary treatment/medical tests, and assist in timely administration of pre- or postexposure prophylactic vaccination to family members and medical staff. Antemortem diagnosis of human rabies provides an impetus for clinicians to attempt experimental therapeutic approaches in some patients, especially after the reported survival of a few cases of human rabies. Traditional methods for antemortem and postmortem rabies diagnosis have several limitations. Recent advances in technology have led to the improvement or development of several diagnostic assays which include methods for rabies viral antigen and antibody detection and assays for viral nucleic acid detection and identification of specific biomarkers. These assays which complement traditional methods have the potential to revolutionize rabies diagnosis in future.