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3.1.7 What are the minimum requirements for laboratories performing basic rabies diagnosis?

Laboratory work with rabies virus poses a certain risk to the health of the staff and the environment, therefore efforts should be made to minimise the risk of exposure to infectious material (to prevent human disease) and of possible release into the environment.

When new laboratories are being established, it is prudent to seek advice from the relevant national regulatory authorities and competent international authorities (e.g. OIE [1]). Laboratory-associated rabies infections are extremely rare. Vaccination is required for all technicians to protect them against rabies with regular serological check-ups. In appropriately trained laboratories, testing of dead animals suspected to be rabid does not pose a high risk for further spread of the disease. Therefore, although biosafety level 3** (BSL) laboratories are preferable, BSL2 laboratories (click here for a schematic view of a BSL2 laboratory) are adequate with at least the following requirements:

• Vaccination of laboratory staff and monitoring of immunity according to WHO [2] recommendations.
• Separate laboratory for handling and storing rabies-infected tissues.
• Limited access to laboratory (authorised staff only).
• Entrance to rabies laboratory through dressing room (change of laboratory clothes when entering and leaving the rabies laboratory), and use of additional personal protective equipment in the laboratory (e.g. glasses, masks and gloves).

Click here for information on the equipment, supplies and protocols needed in the rabies laboratory, and here to read more about international recommendations for laboratory biosafety and biosecurity.


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012