Submitting to the laboratory for ABLV testing

This is a short, easy-reference guide about submitting samples for lyssavirus testing to the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory (BSL). Consult the complete document, ABLV—Information for veterinarians, for more comprehensive information about managing the risk of Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) in animals.

Safety advice

When dealing with an animal suspected to be infected with a lyssavirus, including ABLV or rabies virus (RV), take the following precautions:

  • Whenever reasonable, only rabies-vaccinated persons should handle, euthanase, or remove the head or brain of a bat or other lyssa-suspect animal.
  • Take all reasonable steps to avoid being bitten or scratched (see section 3.3 of ABLV—Information for veterinarians).
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (see section 3.4 of ABLV—Information for veterinarians).
  • If bitten or scratched, immediately wash (do not scrub) the wound, apply a disinfectant, and seek urgent medical advice.

Urgent testing

If testing is urgent (for example, if the start of post-exposure vaccination is being delayed pending the result, or if you suspect lyssavirus disease in an animal other than a bat):

  • contact the laboratory on (07) 3708 8762 to arrange for urgent testing
  • provide an after-hours phone number.

What to submit for lyssavirus testing

To exclude lyssavirus infection definitively, brain tissue must be tested.

Tests cannot exclude lyssavirus infection (including ABLV and RV) in a live animal. Specifically, serology cannot exclude lyssavirus infection in a live animal. Live animals will need to be euthanased, and preferably refrigerated, before transport.

For safety reasons, where reasonable, submit whole, dead animals for testing.

If the animal is small enough to fit in an esky (e.g. a bat), submit the whole, refrigerated animal.

If the whole animal is too large, but the head of the animal can fit in an esky, submit the whole, refrigerated head.

If the head is too large to fit in an esky, remove the brain, divide longitudinally and submit:

  • half the brain fresh (refrigerated)
  • half the brain fixed (in 10% buffered neutral formalin).

Euthanasing a live bat for ABLV exclusion

Bats must be killed humanely. One humane option is to administer an intraperitoneal injection as follows:

  1. Dilute ~0.5ml lethobarb® or similar into 2.5-3ml of water or saline.
  2. Inject diluted lethobarb® into the peritoneal cavity. Avoid the kidney, liver and gravid uterus. Do not inject:
    • into the heart of a conscious animals (unjustifiably painful)
    • concentrated lethobarb® into a conscious animal (unjustifiably painful).
  3. Leave bat in a cage for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Gently prod the bat with a long instrument. If the bat is responsive, wait a bit longer.
  5. Once the bat is unresponsive, remove it from the cage. If the bat is anesthetised but not dead, intracardiac administration of a small volume of diluted lethobarb® will hasten death.

Packaging the sample

Follow these guidelines when preparing a bat or other species for transport to the BSL.

  • Double bag each bat/animal. Place the bat/animal in a plastic bag, then place bag containing the bat/animal in a second bag.
  • Refrigerate, rather than freeze, fresh animal tissues.
  • If more than one animal is submitted, identify each animal (for example, attach a foot tag, or write on the bag containing animal).
  • Complete a specimen advice sheet: Form A (PDF, 645KB) and attach it to the outside of the esky.
    Do not contaminate documentation by placing it inside the esky.
  • Indicate on the form the reason or reasons for requesting testing, for example:
    • clinical signs consistent with ABLV (describe these signs)
    • potentially infectious contact with another animal (describe the circumstances and provide animal/s and owner/s details)
    • other (describe circumstances and signs)
  • If you know or suspect that the bat or animal has had potentially infectious contact with a person, describe the circumstances and provide the person's details.

Laboratory contact details

Phone: (07) 3708 8762 (Mon–Fri: 9am–5pm)
After hours: phone the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Postal address

Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory
Health and Food Science Precinct
PO Box 156

Delivery address

Specimen Receipt (Loading Dock 12)
Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory
Health and Food Science Precinct
39 Kessels Road

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