Rabies-specific antibodies: measuring surrogates of protection against a fatal disease

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2010 Mar 9;4(3):e595. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000595.


Antibodies play a central role in prophylaxis against many infectious agents. While neutralization is a primary function of antibodies, the Fc- and complement-dependent activities of these multifunctional proteins may also be critical in their ability to provide protection against most viruses. Protection against viral pathogens in vivo is complex, and while virus neutralization--the ability of antibody to inactivate virus infectivity, often measured in vitro--is important, it is often only a partial contributor in protection. The rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test (RFFIT) remains the "gold standard" assay to measure rabies virus-neutralizing antibodies. In addition to neutralization, the rabies-specific antigen-binding activity of antibodies may be measured through enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), as well as other available methods. For any disease, in selecting the appropriate assay(s) to use to assess antibody titers, assay validation and how they are interpreted are important considerations-but for a fatal disease like rabies, they are of paramount importance. The innate limitations of a one-dimensional laboratory test for rabies antibody measurement, as well as the validation of the method of choice, must be carefully considered in the selection of an assay method and for the interpretation of results that might be construed as a surrogate of protection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / blood*
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Humans
  • Neutralization Tests / methods
  • Rabies / immunology*
  • Rabies / mortality
  • Rabies / prevention & control
  • Rabies virus / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral