The rabies laboratory at the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) Laboratory Services Section in Austin is the primary rabies diagnostic laboratory in the State of Texas; it serves as a rabies reference laboratory for other laboratories in Texas, as well as for adjacent states in the US and Mexico. Information is exchanged/shared via email with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts in the field. The laboratory coordinates closely with the Zoonosis Control Branch, and all non-negative results are transmitted to the Public Health Regions, via phone or email, after the results are completed.
The laboratory receives between 8,000 and 10,000 animal specimens annually for rabies testing. Routine testing is done by direct fluorescent antibody staining. In addition to diagnostic testing, the laboratory types all positive specimens by either monoclonal antibody staining, restriction digest typing, or nucleotide sequencing to determine the variant of rabies virus present in the animal. Typing information is used to follow the spread of rabies through animals and across the state. This information has proven to be extremely useful in defining the vaccine drop zone for the Oral Rabies Vaccination Program (ORVP) of wild animals in order to combat rabies epizootics in coyotes in south Texas and foxes in west Texas.
Rabies Frequently Asked Questions
How much time is required to do rabies testing?
See Turnaround Time and Reporting of Rabies Results
How do I submit a specimen for rabies testing?
See Specimen Submission Guidelines
Will the laboratory test rodents?
Rodents are not normally associated with rabies, therefore testing of rodents is discouraged. However, if a rodent was wild (as opposed to cage raised) and bit a person in an unprovoked attack, the laboratory will test the rodent.
What does an "unsatisfactory" report for rabies mean?
See Result Interpretation
What does an "inconclusive" report for rabies mean?
See Result Interpretation
The specimen was frozen by mistake. Can it still be tested?
The specimen may still be submitted for testing; however, freezing and thawing of brain material causes two problems for rabies testing. (1) The thawed brain will be very soft and mushy making it difficult to identify the various parts of the brain. If the parts can be identified a specimen will be tested as normal. If the parts cannot be adequately identified, the material will be tested and reported "positive" if the material appears positive, but will be reported "unsatisfactory" if the material does not appear positive. (2) Repeated freeze-thaw cycles may reduce test sensitivity and should be avoided. Freezing and thawing the brain may actually inactivate the virus. This is not a problem for the direct fluorescent antibody test-- this test is not dependent on viable virus but only on the presence of viral antigen, however, it may compromise additional testing, such as culture for confirmation of specimens that are difficult to interpret by the direct fluorescent antibody test.
How much it will cost to test the rabies specimen?
The Texas Department of State Health Services does not charge for rabies testing. However, the TDSHS will not pay shipping charges.
The specimen looks decomposed/destroyed, smelly, green, etc. What should I do?
You should still submit the specimen to the Laboratory for testing. It is sometimes difficult to predict the condition of the brain by viewing the condition of the exterior of the head. The personnel in the Laboratory will necropsy the specimen and make a decision as to the suitability for testing, based on the brain material itself. If there is any material present at all, it will be tested. If that material is positive for rabies, the specimen will be reported "positive." If that material is not positive, and the technologist determined that the specimen was either too decomposed or destroyed for the test to be reliable, the specimen will be reported "decomposed" or "destroyed," based on the condition of the brain material.
When do I need to do to have my serum, or that of my animal, tested to determine response to a rabies vaccine?
Follow the submission instructions provided by the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
How do I contact someone in the Rabies Laboratory?
Call (512) 776-7595.
What if I still have questions related to rabies?
Click here to view the CDC Questions and Answers about Rabies