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Human rabies immunoglobin vaccine, Lyons, France, 1985

Rabies is a virus which infects wild and domestic animals. Humans can contract the disease from a bite from a rabid dog or bat or through the saliva of these creatures should it penetrate a cut or scratch on the skin. Once the virus has taken hold in humans rabies is usually fatal unless treated. Vaccines should be injected as soon as possible after exposure as immunity develops after about a week. It is a race against time as rabies reaches the central nervous system in two to six weeks. The first rabies vaccine was developed in 1885 by Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and Emile Roux (1853-1933). The Institut Mérieux was founded c. 1897 by Pasteur’s assistant Marcel Mérieux (1870-1937) to develop vaccines and reagents in Lyon, France. Today it is a world leader in its field.

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Glossary: rabies

Rabies is a disease which infects domestic and wild animals. It is a virus transmitted to other animals and humans through close contact with saliva from those infected (i.e. bites, scratches, licks on broken skin). Once symptoms of the disease develop, rabies is fatal.

Glossary: immunity

The condition of being immune, the protection against infectious disease conferred either by the immune response generated by immunisation or previous infection or by other nonimmunologic factors.

Glossary: virus

A tiny particle made up of DNA/RNA and a protein coat. Viruses infect animals, plants, and micro-organisms and cause many diseases, including the common cold, influenza, measles, chickenpox, AIDS, polio and rabies. Many viral diseases can be controlled by means of vaccines.

Glossary: vaccine

A substance given to humans or animals to improve immunity from disease. A vaccine can sometimes contain a small amount of bacteria that is designed to stimulate the body's reaction to that particular disease. The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner to prevent smallpox.

Glossary: immunoglobin

Immunoglobin is a Y-shaped protein that responds to specific attacks upon the body.