Left untreated, infection with rabies virus almost always results in a painful death. There has been some limited success with experimental treatment regimens (notably the Milwaukee Protocol), but these are exceptions to the rule: Once the symptoms begin to manifest, the only options left for treatment are palliative in nature. Recently, though, scientists discovered a small group of Peruvians who carry rabies antibodies. They’re not sure why they do, but one theory is that repeated exposure to the virus through the bites of vampire bats may have helped them gradually develop immunity. NPR has the story:
In remote regions of the Amazon jungle, small communities of people live near bat roosts, and rabies infections are relatively common among them. At least five outbreaks killed 19 people in the Peruvian Amazon in 2009.
So a team from the CDC, lead by disease ecologist Amy Gilbert, went to two villages near these outbreaks looking for signs of rabies exposure in healthy people. They took blood samples from 63 villagers and measured their levels of rabies antibodies — signs that someone has fought off an infection or received a vaccine.
Anxiously check your exposed skin for bites and keep reading at NPR.