Although rabies may seem like a disease of the past according to a 2015 study by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, the virus still kills about 160 people a day. We may be aware of the more obvious and Hollywood-worthy signs of rabies (also known as hydrophobia), such as foaming at the mouth and a fear of water, but rabies' effects on the brain are less obvious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or tissues from the nervous system from an infected mammal to another mammal. Once contracted, the virus causes inflammation of the brain. Recently, researchers from Tel Aviv University identified the exact mechanism that the killer rabies virus uses to effectively enter the nervous system.

"Rabies not only hijacks the nervous system's machinery, it also manipulates that machinery to move faster," said study author Dr. Eran Perlson in a statement. "We have shown that rabies enters a neuron in the peripheral nervous system by binding to a nerve growth factor receptor, responsible for the health of neurons, called p75.”

This route is faster than that of endogenous ligands, small molecules that travel regularly along the neuron to keep it healthy. As a result, the virus is able to spread rapidly throughout the body. Once the virus gets to the spinal cord, it immediately travels to the brain. Here it multiplies rapidly, causing inflammation. From here, the virus affects the rest of the body, shutting down the organs one by one.

Unfortunately, the virus is one of the most deadly diseases on the Earth with a 99.9 percent fatality rate. However, if you receive a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) before initial symptoms begin or immediately after exposure, then survival is possible. Those most at risk of the disease today are children living in the poorest parts of the world, particularly rural Africa and Asia; over 90 percent of rabies deaths are in Africa, Asia and the Middle East where canine rabies is widespread.

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