Health Scan - Rabies returns to Israel

Hebrew U teams up with researchers in Singapore; new blood test detects chromosomal abnormalities.

Exactly 125 years after Louis Pasteur, the French microbiologist and chemist, gave the vaccine that he and colleague Emile Roux had developed to a nine-year-old boy who had been badly mauled by a rabid dog, the fatal viral disease rabies has unfortunately not yet been wiped out. The last reported Israeli death was about 20 years ago, when a soldier was bitten by a small mammal in a tent and he was not vaccinated in time.
The vaccine is very effective, but left in nature as oral vaccine on bait, it does not reach all animals, and some dog (and cat) owners falsely believe that giving their pets the vaccine just every few years rather than annually as required by law is enough to protect them. In addition, rabid animals know no borders, and infected mammals pass into the country especially from the north and the east.
There have been 17 cases of rabid animals – 11 of them dogs – reported here since the beginning of the year, according to an article on the subject in the latest Hebrew-language Israeli Journal of Family Practice. Some of the dogs had been vaccinated in previous years, but not annually, thus they were not protected, wrote Dr. Dalia Navot-Mintzer of Emek Medical Center in Afula and Dr.
Bivana Hazan, an infectious disease expert at Clalit Health Services in the North.
They wrote that the main way to fight rabies is to increase public awareness of the disease, as well as to enforce laws requiring dogs to be vaccinated. They cited the case of two puppies adopted by children from an Arab village near Tiberias. As the young dogs were aggressive and even bit people, they were abandoned in a forest nearby.
One was later found and diagnosed in lab tests as rabid. The second – which was likely to be infected as well – was never located.
They advised the public to contact a veterinarian or the nearest district health office when somebody is bitten or scratched by a mammal. Consult about any pet which dies from an unknown cause, and don’t adopt a stray without first checking on its health and making sure it is vaccinated, they wrote.
In addition to the injections given to someone exposed to a rabid animal, there is also a preventive vaccine given to people who work with dogs or wild animals, as well as lab workers who test for rabies.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been invited to join with other leading world universities to participate in research centers in Singapore under the CREATE (Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise) program. The National Research Foundation of Singapore said HU’s research project will focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms of inflammation.
The research aims to accelerate the development of diagnostic/prognostic indicators and novel therapeutics for common inflammatory diseases in Asia and elsewhere.
Leading pharmaceutical companies are extremely interested in new therapies for inflammatory diseases, and the strategy of this research program should lead to translation of medical research into novel treatments. The research will be carried out in collaboration with scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and other Israeli academic institutes.
“This collaborative research program will leverage on the existing strengths of both HU and NUS. We see great strategic value in this research, given the increasing prevalence of inflammatory diseases throughout the region,” said Prof. Ehud Razin, former dean of the Hebrew University Medical Faculty and now head of the HU team. “We expect our work to lead to scientific breakthroughs in understanding and developing therapies for inflammatory diseases.”
NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said: “Discovery and evaluation of new treatments for inflammatory diseases continue to be of critical importance. We are pleased to partner with the Hebrew University under the CREATE program. With strong commitment from both sides, we are confident that this collaboration will have a major impact by addressing important research and medical needs, both in the region and the world.”
A simple non-invasive blood test could replace invasive diagnostic techniques in early pregnancy, according to researchers at the Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands. According to a UPI report, they are developing a simple blood test capable of accurately detecting chromosomal abnormalities in a developing fetus responsible for Down syndrome and other conditions.
Currently, the only way to make such determinations is through amniocentesis or other invasive techniques that carry the risk of triggering miscarriages, the release said.
Dr. Suzanna Frints, a clinical geneticist at Maastricht, says molecular genetic probes can detect DNA belonging to the fetus in blood samples taken from a pregnant woman. The simple blood test could replace current diagnostic procedures, said Frints, who addressed the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome.
“It is inexpensive compared to the costs of invasive prenatal diagnosis, and could easily be implemented at low cost, between 30- 150 euros [$35-$180] per kit per person, with a small apparatus in every hospital in the world,” Frints said. Blood samples can be taken during routine prenatal visits.