Rabies viruses have a characteristic bullet shape, made obvious in this rotating animated graphic. Their genomes are single stranded negative sense RNA. This RNA is combined with a nucleoprotein to create a nucleocapsid. The nucleocapsid is wound tightly as a helix (yellow in this graphic). The nucleocapsid helix is organised during morphogenesis and stabilised by matrix proteins. The matrix layer is surrounded by a viral envelope derived from the host cell during budding. The surface of the rabies virus is covered by spikes or knobs (shown in bright red) formed from glycoprotein. These are connected to the matrix by a transmembrane region.
Rabies viruses can infect mammals and are best known for causing rabies in dogs (rabid or mad dogs). It used to be called hydrophobia since the sight of water would cause terrible fear in those infected. Rabies is generally lethal unless treatment is given very quickly. Transmission to humans can occur from bats and other wild mammals in infected areas.