Rabies

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Rabies The final and certainly most famous success of Pasteur's research was the development of a vaccine against rabies or hydrophobia as it is also known. The disease has always had a hold on the public imagination and has been looked upon with horror. It evokes visions of "raging victims, bound and howling, or asphyxiated between two mattresses" (Duclaux). The treatments applied to victims were as horrible as the supposed symptoms: this included cauterizing the bite wounds with a red-hot poker. Actually very few persons die in any year from being bitten by a rabid dog or wolf. The symptoms of the disease are variable: onset may take weeks to months to develop if they develop at all. Nonetheless, Pasteur and his colleague Roux realized that conquest of rabies would be recognized as a great achievement to the world of science and to the public at large. Pasteur and Roux initially attempted to transfer infection by injecting healthy dogs with saliva from rabid animals. The results were variable and unpredictable. Later, recognizing that the active agent was in the spinal cord and brain, and because they were unable to detect a specific rabic microorganism, Pasteur and Roux applied extracts of rabid spinal cord directly to the brain of dogs. With this technique they could reproducibly produce rabies in the test animals in a few days. The goal was next to develop a vaccine that would provide protection to the subject before the rabic agent moved from the bite site to the spinal cord to the brain. This was achieved by injecting into test animals suspensions of spinal cord of rabid rabbits that were attenuated in strength by air drying over a 12-day period in the now-famous Roux Bottle. A strip of spinal cord was suspended fro... ... middle of paper ... ...cientist. His health was failing and a paralysis of his left side from a serious stroke he suffered in his 46th year made his working in the laboratory increasingly difficult. Pasteur died in 1895 after suffering additional strokes. He was buried, a national hero, by the French Government. His funeral was attended by thousands of people. His remains, initially interred in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, was transferred to a permanent crypt in the Pasteur Institute, Paris. In a tragic footnote to history, Joseph Meister, the first person publicly to receive the rabies vaccine, returned to the Pasteur Institute as an employee where he served for many years as Gatekeeper. In 1940, 45 years after his treatment for rabies that made medical history, he was ordered by the German occupiers of Paris to open Pasteur's crypt. Rather than comply, Joseph Meister committed suicide!

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