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Surviving Rabies

September 3, 2012

Some people in the remote Peruvian Amazon have developed antibodies to rabies.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Rabies antibodies…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Rabies has long been thought to be 100% fatal in humans unless treated before the infection can develop. But now, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control report that some people in the Peruvian Amazon may have contracted rabies and survived, developing antibodies to fight the infection. CDC disease ecologist Amy Gilbert and her colleagues tested the blood of 63 villagers in several remote communities where rabies-infected vampire bats are common. More than 10% of them carried antibodies against rabies.

AMY GILBERT (CDC):

In total we’re talking about 9 people who were antibody positive.

HIRSHON:

Over 55,000 people die worldwide from rabies infection every year. She says understanding how some populations may have developed defenses against the infection could help lead to new life-saving treatments. She adds that anyone who suspects they may have been exposed to the virus should seek medical attention immediately. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Vampire bats are a vector of rabies in the Peruvian Amazon. Researchers say people living there are at higher risk for contracting rabies because of increased interactions with bats. (Acatenazzi/Wikimedia Commons)