It’s possible to treat rabies caused by dog bites: Scientists

March 13th, 2009 - 1:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, March 13 (IANS) A bite from a rabid dog claims someone’s life in the developing world every 10 minutes. But elimination of this horrific disease appears to be in sight, according to a team of scientists from Canada, Britain and the US.
Researchers who analysed data on rabies transmission in two districts of rural Tanzania suggested that with “sustained, international commitment, global elimination of rabies from domestic dog populations, the most dangerous vector to humans, is a realistic goal”.

Rabies is an acute viral encephalitis that is spread through the saliva of infected animals.

Human rabies deaths from domestic dogs are rare in North America, but the disease causes over 24,000 deaths a year in Africa, mostly in poor rural communities and, most often, in children. Globally, 55,000 people die annually from canine rabies.

Jonathan Dushoff, assistant professor of biology at McMaster University (Canada) said “the paper provides important evidence that the elimination of canine rabies may be possible”.

During a rabies outbreak in northern Tanzania, the team of scientists was able to directly trace case-to-case transmission of rabies. From this data, they generated a detailed analysis of rabies transmission biology and found evidence for surprisingly low levels of transmission.

The scientists also analysed outbreak data from around the world and found the transmission of canine rabies has been inherently low throughout its global historic range, explaining the success of control efforts in developed countries.

Dushoff said a larger study is planned. “If the (larger study) works, we hope that the World Health Organisation and the Gates Foundation will decide to tackle rabies world-wide. Canine rabies may well be a disease we can get rid of.”

Dushoff’s theoretical biology lab at McMaster is a “dry” lab - with no benches, chemical reagents or biological specimens. Its main tools are computers, pencils and chalkboards, said a McMaster’s release.

The lab’s main focus is on a broad range of questions surrounding the evolution and spread of infectious diseases of humans - including rabies, influenza, malaria and HIV.

These findings were presented in the current issue of PLoS Biology,

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