There is no single test used to diagnose rabies in humans. Rather, several tests will be performed on samples of saliva, serum (blood), spinal fluid, and skin biopsies of hair follicles at the nape of the neck. In the case of animals, the disease is often diagnosed using a test called the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test; however, the test may only be conducted after the animal is dead.
Rabies Testing: An Introduction
If a healthcare provider strongly suspects rabies exposure, he or she will order certain tests to help either make a rabies diagnosis or rule it out. If the animal was captured, it can also be tested.
Testing for Rabies in Humans
Rabies testing in humans involves several tests. No single test is sufficient to diagnose rabies in humans. Rabies tests are performed on samples of saliva, serum (blood), spinal fluid, and skin biopsies of hair follicles at the nape of the neck.
Testing in Animals
Testing in animals is most frequently done using the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test. This test requires brain tissue from animals suspected of being rabid. The test can only be performed post-mortem (after the animal is dead).