Caused by a rhabdovirus (Greek rhabdos rod), a bullet-shaped RNA virus with
a helical ribonucleocapsid enclosed in a lipid envelope with surface projections
Rabies virus belongs to the genus Lyssavirus virus (Greek lyssa = madness)
in the family Rhabdoviridae.
For many years, rabies virus was thought to be unique. Conventional serological
tests do not readily distinguish strains, and antigenic variation is not important
with respect to immunity.
Monoclonal antibodies can distinguish strains, however, with respect to their
species of origin and geographic location.
There are also several distinct rabies-related viruses which have been isolated
There may be differences in pathogenicity between strains, depending, for example,
on their species of origin or on their passage history in the laboratory. Different
animal species also vary in their susceptibility to rabies.
The virus is sensitive to lipid solvents and emulsifying agents, and thus is
quickly inactivated by a number of disinfectants including formalin, soap and
quaternary ammonium compounds. It is easily inactivated by heat and sunlight,
but is stable at low temperatures. Under normal environmental conditions, therefore,
it does not remain infective for long outside the host.
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