Rabies is an infectious disease that, in the past, killed one hundred percent of its unvaccinated victims. Transmitted through animals, the rabies virus kills by interfering with the body’s critical functions, such including respiration, swallowing, and heart rate. In the past, no rabies patients have survived without immediate introduction of rabies antibodies.
Until Jenna Giese. In 2005, the then fifteen year old was bitten by a rabid bat, but did not report the incident until she experienced symptoms a month later. By that time, it was too late to administer the rabies vaccine, and experimental medicine was the only option doctors had left. Dr. Rodney Willoughby, noticing that rabies does not usually cause permanent brain damage but rather kills by temporarily stopping the brain’s ability to run vital functions, induced a coma in Jenna with various drugs.
Jenna woke from her coma as the first unvaccinated rabies survivor, and now suffers only from and unsteady gait and slurred speech. The same induced coma therapy has been tried on all other applicable cases, but because there are not that many opportunities to test the treatment, the medical community has not decided if it is indeed a cure for rabies. Positive results with two other patients, however, gives hope that this may be a legitimate treatment. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/352/24/2508