Georgia Researchers Develop New Treatment for Rabies

The University of Georgia researchers say that the treatment cures the disease even after the virus has spread to the brain.

Dr. Biao He is a professor of infectious diseases in the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and a Georgia Research Alliance distinguished investigator. He and others at UGA are working on a rabies vaccine and have successfully tested a new treatment on mice that cures the disease even after the virus has spread to the brain.

Paul Efland/University of Georgia

Researchers at the University of Georgia say they have successfully tested a new treatment on mice that cures rabies even after the virus has spread to the brain.

“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,” said study co-author Biao He, Ph.D., a professor of infectious diseases in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “Our team has developed a new vaccine that rescues mice longer after infection than what was traditionally thought possible.”

In their study, mice 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, according to the study.

“This is the most effective treatment we have seen reported in the scientific literature,” Dr. 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.”

The researchers noted that they will continue to perfect their vaccine’s design and hope to move into more advanced animal trials soon.

The findings recently appeared in the Journal of Virology.

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