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Update on rabies

Authors Jackson A

Published 2 February 2011 Volume 2011:2 Pages 31—43


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Alan C Jackson
Departments of Internal Medicine (Neurology) and Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Abstract: Human rabies is almost invariably fatal, and globally it remains an important public health problem. Our knowledge of rabies pathogenesis has been learned mainly from studies performed in experimental animal models, and a number of unresolved issues remain. In contrast with the neural pathway of spread, there is still no credible evidence that hematogenous spread of rabies virus to the central nervous system plays a significant role in rabies pathogenesis. Although neuronal dysfunction has been thought to explain the neurological disease in rabies, recent evidence indicates that structural changes involving neuronal processes may explain the severe clinical disease and fatal outcome. Endemic dog rabies results in an ongoing risk to humans in many resource-limited and resource-poor countries, whereas rabies in wildlife is important in North America and Europe. In human cases in North America, transmission from bats is most common, but there is usually no history of a bat bite and there may be no history of contact with bats. Physicians may not recognize typical features of rabies in North America and Europe. Laboratory diagnostic evaluation for rabies includes rabies serology plus skin biopsy, cerebrospinal fluid, and saliva specimens for rabies virus antigen and/or RNA detection. Methods of postexposure rabies prophylaxis, including wound cleansing and administration of rabies vaccine and human rabies immune globulin, are highly effective after recognized exposure. Although there have been rare survivors of human rabies, no effective therapy is presently available. Therapeutic coma (midazolam and phenobarbital), ketamine, and antiviral therapies (known as the “Milwaukee protocol”) were given to a rabies survivor, but this therapy was likely not directly responsible for the favorable outcome. New therapeutic approaches for human rabies need to be developed. A better understanding of basic mechanisms involved in rabies pathogenesis may be helpful in the development of potential new therapies for the future.

Keywords: lyssavirus, pathogenesis, rabies virus, viral encephalitis

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