Brief Description

Rabies Fluorescent Antibody

Rabies testing is available at the State Public Health Laboratory on a daily basis. The laboratory does more than 2000 specimens annually from across the state of Missouri. Animals suspected of having rabies infection may be submitted for testing through a veterinarian, local or county health department office, district health representative, or other health care provider.

Laboratory Unit



Direct Fluorescent Antibody

Specimen Collection

Avoid damage to the brain.  Do not shoot or crush the skull.

Have a qualified individual remove the animal head from the body.  Do not ship whole animals except for bats and small rodents.

Package the animal head so that it does not leak. Allow excess blood to drain before placing the head in the shipping container. 

Use ONLY freeze packs as refrigerant in the shipping container. Never put ice in a rabies mailing container.

Fill out the laboratory form and return it to the enclosed envelope. Please include your phone number and mailing address.

Do not use staples on the laboratory form or envelope.

If submitting only tissue samples, please ensure that an adequate specimen is collected. The laboratory must receive a full cross-section of the brain stem and either the cerebellum or hippocampus. Contact the laboratory before collecting tissue samples. Rabies samples should be kept refrigerated until submitted for testing. Freezing is not recommended, but will NOT affect the test results. Repeated freeze-thaw cycles should be avoided.



Rabies specimens should be submitted for testing through a veterinarian, local or county health department office, district health representative, or other health care provider. Shipping containers and instructions are supplied by the laboratory. Do not ship animal heads without obtaining proper shipping containers and instructions.

Shipping containers are provided by the laboratory for the transport of animal specimens. A free courier service is provided for the transportation of specimens to the laboratory. Do not ship animal heads without obtaining proper shipping containers and instructions. Do not ship rabies boxes by UPS or the U.S. Postal Service. Specimens may be delivered directly to the laboratory if courier delivery is unavailable.

The State Public Health Laboratory is supplying a certified rabies mailer that meets the Infectious Disease regulations required by the Department of Transportation. It is very important that this mailer be used in its entirety, including the enclosed documentation and labeling. Please to not alter or discard any component of the mailer. This mailer is provided for the protection of your staff, the courier service, and laboratory employees. The submitting facility is responsible for any fines that could be incurred because of failure to follow shipping guidelines as detailed in the mailer.

List of Contents:

Diagnostic Specimen (Animal Matter) 
Absorbent packet 
Inner Protective cover 
Screw-top pail with threaded cover 
Foam Cooler w/lid 
Instruction sheet 
Gel pack/Refrigerant

The boxes are identified by a four-digit code written on the side of the box. After use, the box will be cleaned and returned to the facility.

Requests for replacement/additional boxes may be made by contacting the rabies lab at 573-751-3334.

Packaging Instructions

The Missouri State Public Health Laboratory (MSPHL) performs rabies-specific laboratory testing on animal specimens submitted for rabies examination. Animal specimens are not tested for any other disease or pathogen by the MSPHL.

Because the MSPHL cannot ensure that remaining animal tissue does not pose a risk of disease transmission, any unneeded material is incinerated or destroyed after rabies testing is completed. Animal material may be transferred for additional testing or examination only to another laboratory or veterinary facility. Under no circumstances will any animal remains be transferred to any individual other than a laboratory or veterinary medical facility.

Acceptable Specimen Type(s)

Animal head, animal brain (see instructions below)

Test Request Form(s)

Possible Results

Rabies Virus Found, Rabies Virus Not Found, Indeterminate

Unacceptable Conditions

Specimens for rabies testing will only be accepted when there is known or potential exposure of any of the following to a possibly infected animal:

Animals maintained as pets 
Domesticated animals

Exotic or non-native animal species maintained for husbandry purposes or in zoos

Specimens for rabies testing will not be accepted in the following instances:

Animals (including bats) when there has been no exposure history as described above 
Infant (small/hairless) bats 
Decomposed or destroyed brains (when testing material is unavailable)


The laboratory will not accept domesticated (caged) mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, or guinea pigs for rabies testing, regardless of exposure history.

Wild rodents will be accepted and tested when human exposure (biting) has occurred.

Any exception to this policy must be authorized by the laboratory.

Other specimens may be accepted on a case-by-case basis after prior consultation with staff from the State Public Health Laboratory.

Interfering Substances

Fixed tissue (formalin), desiccated tissue

Result Reported

Day of receipt, next working day



CPT Codes




Additional Information

Diagnosis of Rabies in Humans:  Requests for rabies diagnosis in humans should be made to the State Public Health Laboratory. Specimens may be submitted only after consultation with the MO State Public Health Laboratory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rabies Section.

Rabies Testing Policy
Discontinuation of Rabies Weekend Testing
Courier Service