BACKGROUND: Rabies is traditionally considered a uniformly fatal disease after onset of clinical manifestations. However, increasing evidence indicates that non-lethal infection as well as recovery from flaccid paralysis and encephalitis occurs in laboratory animals as well as humans.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Non-lethal rabies infection in dogs experimentally infected with wild type dog rabies virus (RABV, wt DRV-Mexico) correlates with the presence of high level of virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and mild immune cell accumulation in the central nervous system (CNS). By contrast, dogs that succumbed to rabies showed only little or no VNA in the serum or in the CSF and severe inflammation in the CNS. Dogs vaccinated with a rabies vaccine showed no clinical signs of rabies and survived challenge with a lethal dose of wild-type DRV. VNA was detected in the serum, but not in the CSF of immunized dogs. Thus the presence of VNA is critical for inhibiting virus spread within the CNS and eventually clearing the virus from the CNS.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Non-lethal infection with wt RABV correlates with the presence of VNA in the CNS. Therefore production of VNA within the CNS or invasion of VNA from the periphery into the CNS via compromised blood-brain barrier is important for clearing the virus infection from CNS, thereby preventing an otherwise lethal rabies virus infection.
Gnanadurai, Clement W; Zhou, Ming; He, Wenqi; Leyson, Christina M; Huang, Chien-Tsun; Salyards, Gregory; Harvey, Stephen B; Chen, Zhenhai; He, Biao; Yang, Yang; Hooper, D C; Dietzchold, Berhnard; and Fu, Zhen F, "Presence of virus neutralizing antibodies in cerebral spinal fluid correlates with non-lethal rabies in dogs." (2013). Department of Cancer Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 56.