New Way to Stop Rabies Virus from Shutting down Body’s Immune Response Developed (dataset)
Fri, December 3, 2021

New Way to Stop Rabies Virus from Shutting down Body’s Immune Response Developed (dataset)

Dogs are only a few of those animals who could possibly carry rabies, which is harmful for the human / Photo Credit: Ivan Kokoulin via 123rf


Rabies (hydrophobia) is a disease that makes dogs mad and sick. It is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system and excreted in the saliva. It is a kind of virus that is good at hiding from the immune system, making it difficult for the body or host to combat it because no immune response was developed, explained by Dr. Charlie Earsmon via UK’s health and medical platform NetDoctor. The good news is this scientific puzzle has now been solved.


The foundation for the creation of new anti-rabies vaccines

Researchers from the University of Melbourne have discovered a new way to stop the rabies virus from shutting down the body’s immune response, laying the foundation for the creation of new anti-rabies vaccines. Their study, which appeared in the journal Cell Reports, highlighted how several viruses target STAT1, a gene that provides instructions for the creation of protein involved in multiple immune system functions. They said that viruses target such human protein and other related proteins in the body to shut down the immune defenses of the host.

It is not known, however, how exactly the immune antagonist of rabies virus P-protein catches the STAT1 because there is a lack of structural data on the complexes of STAT1 with viral proteins. By viral protein, the group means a component and a product of a virus.

Corresponding author Dr. Gregory W. Moseley from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology pointed out that it was a challenge on their part to produce the key proteins on the host and viral sites in a test tube as well as make sure they are stable to help them examine their interaction in a direct way. Such an experiment has not even been done before for a full-size human protein, the author added.


New and improved anti-rabies vaccines are now under study in order to address the rapid dissemination of the virus / Photo Credit: Iurii Golub via 123rf


Host and viral proteins

To overcome the challenge, the team used a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. It is an analytical chemistry technique often used in research and quality control to determine the purity and content of a sample and its molecular structure. The researchers used the NMR to see the exact regions where the viral protein holds onto STAT1 human protein to keep it away from the locations in the cell where it has to be for the activation of the body’s immune response, explained medical and health platform Medical Xpress.

Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy expert and senior author of the study associate professor Paul Gooley said that they were able to locate the new sites and regions for mutations. In doing so, it could help target the virus and completely prevent it from grabbing hold of STAT1. To their knowledge, their work is the first-ever direct structural analysis of the binding of a full-size human protein STAT1 to a viral protein. Some viruses, including Hendra and measles, target such protein too.

Global efforts have been made to find better ways to counter rabies. Some methods available are culling dogs and mass vaccination. Yet, the culling of animals has proven ineffective in controlling rabies and mass vaccination is not easy because catching and injecting the dogs has been problematic.

Moseley said further that the development of a new, highly effective, and safe rabies vaccine can be given as “baits” or orally and is already considered a major step to counter rabies. Gooley expressed his excitement for taking part in the research that could someday lead to safer oral rabies vaccine and to eliminate the deadly virus, particularly in developing nations. He said that being a discovery scientist, he is “driven by curiosity” and enjoys finding answers to scientific problems.

The team believed that the methods and state-of-the-art tools they used in their research can also be applied to stop the spread of other viruses that target STAT1.



Rabies: incidence, prevalence, death

Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shared the rates of incidence, prevalence, and death from rabies in the world from 1990 to 2017. The prevalence of rabies in 2017 was 515, and there were 11,659 people who died due to the malady. The incidence of rabies meanwhile was at 13,391.

Compared to the 1990 data, the number of deaths due to rabies gradually decreased from 37,557 to 34,162 (1995), 29,952 (2000), 24,945 (2005), 17,647 (2010), and 12, 719 (2015). Data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was also used.

The World Health Organization stated that dog vaccination reduces deaths attributable to rabies. Transmission of the viral disease can be interrupted not only through vaccination of dogs but also the prevention of dog bites. Although effective immunoglobulins and human vaccines already exist for rabies, they are not readily accessible and available for people in need, especially in remote rural locations. Every year, more than 29 million people in the world still receive a post-bite vaccination.



A strong culture of reporting and surveillance of stray animal bites is helpful to help the victim receive immunization quickly. The findings of the Australian researchers are also a breakthrough for the development of a new rabies vaccine.

With this recent development, the world may yet finally conquer rabies once and for all.