Successfully treating rabies can be a race against the clock. Those who suffer a bite from a rabid animal have a brief window of time to seek medical help before the virus takes root in the central nervous system, at which point the disease is almost invariably fatal.
Now, researchers at the University of Georgia have successfully tested a new treatment on mice that cures the disease even after the virus has spread to the brain. They published their findings recently in the Journal of Virology.
“Basically, the best way to deal with rabies right now is simple: Don’t get rabies,” said study co-author Biao He, a professor of infectious diseases in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “We have vaccines that can prevent the disease, and we use the same vaccine as a kind of treatment after a bite, but it only works if the virus hasn’t progressed too far.
“Our team has developed a new vaccine that rescues mice much longer after infection than what was traditionally thought possible.”
In their mouse experiments, the animals were exposed to a strain of the rabies virus that generally reaches the brain of infected mice within three days. By day six, mice begin to exhibit the telltale physical symptoms that indicate the infection has become fatal.
However, 50 percent of mice treated with the new vaccine were saved, even after the onset of physical symptoms on day six.
“This is the most effective treatment we have seen reported in the scientific literature,” He said. “If we can improve these results and translate them to humans, we may have found one of the first useful treatments for advanced rabies infection.”
Read the rest of the UGA news release HERE