Science and Health

US girl survives rabies without vaccination

Updated: 2011-06-14 14:01
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SAN FRANCISCO - A North California girl lately survived rabies after a medically-induced coma called "Milwaukee protocol", becoming the third documented person in the United States to have recovered from the fatal infection without receiving the vaccine, local media reported on Monday.

After testing positive for rabies in early May, 8-year-old Precious Reynolds was treated under "Milwaukee protocol" at the UC Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento in California, the San Francisco Chronicle said in a report.

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The treatment put the patient into a chemically induced coma to let the body fight off the virus. "Essentially, we're putting her brain to sleep to protect it this time," Dr. Jennifer Plant, a member of Reynolds' medical team, told the newspaper.

After being in medically induced coma for more than a week, the girl slowly started to wake up. She is able to talk and write right now and is expected to be released from the hospital next week.

Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis, most commonly by a bite from an infected animal. A human rabies is difficult to diagnose and almost invariably fatal if a post- exposure vaccine is not administered immediately.

US girl survives rabies without vaccination

Around 50,000 people die from rabies worldwide every year, most cases in the United States come from bat bites as animal vaccinations have wiped out the disease in dogs and most cats. There are only three to four cases a year in the United States.

"Milwaukee protocol" was first developed and successfully implemented in a teenager rabies case in 2004 in the US state of Wisconsin. There have been four survivors out of 35 patients worldwide treated under the original protocol and a revised one.

Meanwhile, doctors from the hospital noted that it is possible that the girl's immune system is particularly adept at fighting off rabies or the virus type she was infected was less virulent.

More studies are still needed to prove "Milwaukee protocol" is a cure for rabies, some medical experts said.