Rabies : The Virus and Its Mechanisms
Rabies is an infectious disease that has been around the world since the time of Columbus and his first trip to the New World. Back then, it was characterized as the “mad dog” disease and only few would survive it. Those who survived, it was said, were due to miracles. Rabies is a disease that attacks and infiltrates the nervous system and ultimately attacks the brain of its host, leading to neuronal dysfunctions. Throughout the years, scientists have studied the virus with deep interest, as some of its qualities are known, and others are not. Being a complex virus, there are many things that attribute to its life cycle, each with a unique purpose that leads to the complete attack of the host affecting its nervous system, salivary glands, and some of the major organs of the body.
The rabies virus comes from the genus Lyssavirus and family Rhabdoviridae, and has an exceedingly similar “morphology, chemical structure, and life cycle to vesicular stomatitis virus.” (Jackson 23) Its genus and family taxation come both from Greek roots that mean “rage” and “rod” respectively. Rabies is a “zoonotic” disease, which means that it can be transferred from animals to humans and vice versa. The main mission of this destructive virus is to penetrate the nervous system of its host and invade the central nerve cells. Once there, it will replicate itself, until it finishes with a process referred to as budding, which punctures and blows up the cells, essentially destroying the nervous system. Thus, by attacking the central nervous system the virus will penetrate the brain cells and invade other systems and organs. (Jackson 342)
Rabies, RABV, is a commonly known disease throughout the world. Many instantly recognize it when a warm-blooded mammal, such as a dog, presents with behavioral problems. The infected mammal will become increasingly aggressive towards others and could present minor paralysis. The virus gets to a point in which it has infected the body enough that the
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salivary glands cause a foaming at the mouth. This is the most famous symptom of RABV to most people, although there are subtle pathognomonic symptoms more obvious to physicians. Rabies virus is a “highly neurotropic virus” that spreads along neural conduits and plagues the central nervous system, where it generates a severe infection. (Jackson 341) Although a virus, it can be treated with a series of vaccines that can be administered to the host. There have been six famous cases of human survival to the disease; five of these people had already been previously vaccinated against rabies but one had not. The case involved a young female teenager fifteen years of age that had not been previously vaccinated against RABV when diagnosed. She was put under an induced coma to slow down the process of the virus, which gave doctors more time to fight the virus and save her life. (Johnson) Although one can go unscathed from...