The family Rhabdoviridae belongs within the order Mononegavirales, and is made up of six different genera: the Vesiculoviruses, the Ephemeroviruses, the Lyssaviruses, the Cytorhabdoviruses, the Nucleorhabdoviruses and the Novirhabdoviruses. Alongside these virus groups numerous other viruses await classification into this family. Rhabdovirus virions contain a nonsegmented negative‐sense single‐stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) genome encoding five proteins: the nucleocapsid protein (N), the phosphoprotein (P), the matrix protein (M), the glycoprotein (G) and the RNA‐dependent RNA polymerase protein (L), and typically have a distinctive bullet shape. This diverse group of over 165 viruses can infect a range of species including mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, insects and plants. Several of these viruses cause notable economic losses to both the agriculture and aquaculture sector. However, only the lyssaviruses and the vesiculoviruses are able to infect both animals and humans to cause clinical disease, with rabies virus being the most significant human pathogen.

Key Concepts:

  • Only the lyssaviruses and the vesiculoviruses are able to infect both animals and humans to cause clinical diseases.

  • Rabies is one of the most deadly infectious diseases known today with a case‐fatality rate approaching 100%.

  • Rabies virus is the most notable human pathogen.

  • Virions are bullet‐shaped and consist of an envelope, covered with peplomers surrounding a helically coiled cylindrical nucleocapsid.

  • The genome consists of a single molecule of linear negative‐sense, single‐stranded RNA, 13–16 kb in size.

  • The Rhabdoviridae are a diverse group of highly adaptable viruses with a broad host range.

Keywords: nonsegmented; negative‐sense single‐stranded RNA; Rhabdoviridae; genomes; bullet‐shaped envelope; rabies virus

Figure 1.

Genome organisation within the Rhabdoviridae family. Gene ORF sizes (the abbreviations for which are detailed in the text) are not shown to scale, and the total genome length has been standardised. Genome lengths and an example virus are also stated next to genome schematics, extra genes are highlighted in green. © UK Crown Copyright.

Figure 2.

(a) A pictorial representation of RABV, adapted from image designed by A R Fooks, VLA and produced by A Featherstone, Research Graphix, UK. (b) Electron micrograph 200 000 × magnification (negative staining) of RABV (reproduced with kind permission from Bill Cooley, AHVLA). (c) Viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) budding from membranes of cells grown in culture. Reproduced with kind permission from the EM unit, CEFAS. © UK Crown Copyright.



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Healy, Derek M, Banyard, Ashley C, and Fooks, Anthony R(May 2013) Rhabdoviruses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001085.pub3]