How is the rabies virus characterized and how is it transmitted?

Updated: Jun 21, 2019
  • Author: Sandra G Gompf, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

The rabies virus is a bullet-shaped virion with a single-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) nucleocapsid core and lipoprotein envelope. Its nucleocapsid material consists of Negri bodies, which are observed in the cytoplasm of infected neurons (see the image below). The virus is transmitted in saliva or in aerosolized secretions from infected animals, typically via a bite. The virus is not hardy and is quickly inactivated by drying, ultraviolet rays, x-rays, trypsin, detergents, and ether. (See Etiology.)

Hematoxylin and eosin stain of Negri body in a rab Hematoxylin and eosin stain of Negri body in a rabies-infected neuron. Courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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