The family Rhabdoviridae is classified within the order Mononegavirales and is made up of 18 different genera and one other virus awaiting classification into this family. Generally, Rhabdovirus virions contain a nonsegmented negative‐sense single‐stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) genome that, in its most basic form, encodes five proteins: the nucleocapsid protein (N), the phosphoprotein (P), the matrix protein (M), the glycoprotein (G) and the RNA‐dependent RNA polymerase protein (L). All Rhabdoviruses have a distinctive bullet‐shaped morphology; however, two recently recognised genera have been shown to contain viruses with bipartite genomes. 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 important human pathogen.

Key Concepts

  • Only the lyssaviruses and the vesiculoviruses are able to infect both animals and humans to cause clinical disease.
  • Rabies is the most notable human pathogen and is one of the most deadly infectious diseases known with a case‐fatality rate approaching 100%.
  • Virions are bullet‐shaped and consist of an envelope, covered with peplomers surrounding a helically coiled cylindrical nucleocapsid.
  • The genome of the majority of Rhabdoviruses consists of a single molecule of linear negative‐sense single‐stranded RNA, 13–16 kb in size.
  • Dichorhaviruses and Varicosaviruses are newly described rhabdoviruses that lack an envelope and have bipartite genomes.
  • The Rhabdoviridae are a diverse group of highly adaptable viruses with a broad host range.
  • All Rhabdoviruses have non‐Latinised binomial species names to indicate that genus the species belongs to and to facilitate differentiation between virus names and their taxonomic species name.

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

Figure 1. Genome organisation within the family Rhabdoviridae. 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 the accession number of an example virus are also stated next to genome schematics; extra genes are highlighted in green. © UK Crown Copyright (2017). Reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationary Office/Queen's Printer for Scotland and Animal and Plant Health Agency.
Figure 2. (a) A pictorial representation of RABV, adapted from image designed by A R Fooks, APHA 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, APHA). (c) Viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) budding from membranes of cells grown in culture. Reproduced from the EM unit, CEFAS. © UK Crown Copyright (2017). Reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationary Office/Queen's Printer for Scotland and Animal and Plant Health Agency.


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Further Reading

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Marston DA, Horton DL, Ngeleja C, et al. (2012) Ikoma Lyssavirus, highly divergent novel Lyssavirus in an African civet. Emerging Infectious Diseases 18 (4): 664–667.

Mélade J, McCulloch S, Ramasindrazana B, et al. (2016) Serological evidence of lysaviruses among bats on Southwestern Indian Ocean Islands. PLoS One 11 (8): e0160553.

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Jennings, Daisy L, Marston, Denise A, Banyard, Ashley C, and Fooks, Anthony R(Dec 2017) Rhabdoviruses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001085.pub4]