Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 32142519
PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2020 Mar;14(3):e0008116
Rabies is a lethal zoonotic encephalomyelitis that causes an estimated 59,000 human deaths yearly worldwide. Although developing countries of Asia and Africa bear the heaviest burden, surveillance and disease detection in these countries is often hampered by the absence of local laboratories able to diagnose rabies and/or the difficulties of sample shipment from low-access areas to national reference laboratories. Filter papers offer a convenient cost-effective alternative for the sampling, shipment, and storage of biological materials for the diagnosis of many pathogens including rabies virus, yet the properties of diagnostic tests using this support have not been evaluated thoroughly. Sensitivity and specificity of molecular diagnosis of rabies infection using a reverse transcription followed by a hemi-nested polymerase chain reaction (RT-hn-PCR) either directly on brain tissue or using brain tissue dried on filter paper were assessed on 113 suspected field animal samples in comparison to the direct fluorescent antibody test (FAT) recommended by the World Health Organization as one of the reference tests for rabies diagnosis. Impact of the duration of the storage was also evaluated. The sensitivity and the specificity of RT-hn-PCR i) on brain tissue were 96.6% (95% CI: [88.1-99.6]) and 92.7% (95% CI: [82.4-98.0]) respectively and ii) on brain tissue dried on filter paper 100% (95% CI: [93.8-100.0]) and 90.9% (95% CI: [80.0-97.0]) respectively. No loss of sensitivity of RT-hn-PCR on samples of brain tissue dried on filter paper left 7 days at ambient temperature was detected indicating that this method would enable analyzing impregnated filter papers sent to the national reference laboratory at ambient temperature within a 1-week shipment time. It could therefore be an effective alternative to facilitate storage and shipment of samples from low-access areas to enhance and expand rabies surveillance.