Further Evidence of Inadequate Quality in Lateral Flow Devices Commercially Offered for the Diagnosis of Rabies
As a neglected zoonotic disease, rabies causes approximately 5.9 × 104 human deaths annually, primarily affecting low- and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa. In those regions, insufficient surveillance is hampering adequate medical intervention and is driving the vicious cycle of neglect. Where resources to provide laboratory disease confirmation are limited, there is a need for user-friendly and low-cost reliable diagnostic tools that do not rely on specialized laboratory facilities. Lateral flow devices (LFD) offer an alternative to conventional diagnostic methods and may strengthen control efforts in low-resource settings. Five different commercially available LFDs were compared in a multi-centered study with respect to their diagnostic sensitivity and their agreement with standard rabies diagnostic techniques. Our evaluation was conducted by several international reference laboratories using a broad panel of samples. The overall sensitivities ranged from 0% up to 62%, depending on the LFD manufacturer, with substantial variation between the different laboratories. Samples with high antigen content and high relative viral load tended to test positive more often in the Anigen/Bionote test, the latter being the one with the best performance. Still, the overall unsatisfactory findings corroborate a previous study and indicate a persistent lack of appropriate test validation and quality control. At present, the tested kits are not suitable for in-field use for rabies diagnosis, especially not for suspect animals where human contact has been identified, as an incorrect negative diagnosis may result in human casualties. This study points out the discrepancy between the enormous need for such a diagnostic tool on the one hand, and on the other hand, a number of already existing tests that are not yet ready for use.