Vampire Bat Bites Help Shield Peruvians from Rabies
2012-08-02 0:00

By Trevor Stokes | LiveScience

Rabies has been thought of as virtually 100-percent fatal unless treated immediately, but new research shows that a small number of isolated Peruvians have natural immunity from the animal-transmitted disease.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 15 people living in the remote Amazonian region in Peru were protected without medical intervention against the virus that kills more than 55,000 people globally every year.

Their trick: Vampire bats exposed the remote Peruvians to enough of the rabies virus to confer resistance, but not enough to kill them.

"Our results open the door to the idea that there may be some type of natural resistance or enhanced immune response in certain communities regularly exposed to the disease," Amy Gilbert, a researcher with the CDCs National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and co-lead study author, said in a statement. "This means there may be ways to develop effective treatments that can save lives in areas where rabies remains a persistent cause of death."

Rabies immunity

Rabies is a neurological disease transmitted from animals to humans by infected-saliva exposure through bites or scratches. However, the disease can be prevented through immunization within hours of exposure.


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