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Rabies Laboratory at the Wadsworth Center

Photomicrograph using immunoflorescence, of a rabies-infected brain cell. Click for larger view.

The Rabies Laboratory of the Division of Infectious Diseases provides rabies-related laboratory services to all of New York State. It is located at the Wadsworth Center's Griffin Laboratory facility in the Albany suburb of Guilderland. The laboratory's primary service functions are the diagnosis of rabies in animals and the detection and quantification of rabies antibody in human serum.

Veterinarians, public health officials, physicians and other professionals needing to access laboratory services can find information regarding submission of samples at this site.

The diagnosis of rabies in animals is performed on specimens submitted for examination following a bite or other possible exposure to a human or domestic animal, when the confinement and observation of the offending animal is not appropriate or possible. The results of these examinations are generally used by physicians and local health authorities to decide if rabies postexposure treatment is necessary, and therefore require the highest standards of sensitivity and specificity. The results of these tests also serve to produce rabies surveillance data.

The test for rabies is performed by a microscopic examination of brain tissue samples using an immunofluorescence staining technique.

The test for rabies is performed by a microscopic examination of brain tissue samples using an immunofluorescence staining technique. Results are confirmed by virus isolation in a cell culture system. During the past 15 years, the rabies laboratory averaged 8,809 examinations annually. Click here for an overview of the history of rabies in New York State.

The laboratory also tests human samples for rabies antibody using a cell culture system. This test is generally performed to evaluate the adequacy of response to rabies vaccination, and to determine the need for booster vaccination to sustain an immune status for those at risk of rabies exposure (e.g., veterinarians, biologists, animal control workers).

The laboratory also performs ante- and postmortem examination for human rabies cases in patients diagnosed with an acute encephalitis of unknown origin.

The rabies laboratory conducts research and participates in collaborative studies on numerous rabies-related projects. The laboratory has played a leadership role in studying the epidemiology of bat rabies. It has led the development of advanced rabies diagnostic methods and the production of improved diagnostic reagents. It was the first state rabies diagnostic laboratory in the United States to replace the mouse inoculation test with an in vitro cell culture system for the routine confirmation of the microscopic diagnosis of rabies. The laboratory also has been a regular contributor to the development and evaluation of methods to control rabies by the oral vaccination of wildlife.