Rabies is not awesome. The virus is usually transmitted through an animal bite and, if not treated in time, the infection is fatal! While a vaccine and post-exposure treatment are available, what about people without access to them? Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Peruvian Ministry of Health have found that, in some remote communities, vampire bats may be unintentionally “vaccinating” people against the disease!
The scientists aren't sure what is happening, but six people in the Peruvian Amazon who reported coming into contact with vampire bats developed antibodies against rabies. The hypothesis is that while feeding on humans, the little blood drinkers may have infected their tasty prey with tiny amounts of the rabies virus – just enough to cause the human immune system to produce antibodies to fight it, just as a vaccine does.
Although it's not known if these people are totally immune, the fuzzy little bat phlebotomists certainly seem to be doing their part to help us find new potential rabies treatments!
Image: modified from Wikipedia
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