Giving Rabies to Puppies? Not So Fast.
Physicians Committee scientists are asking the Taiwanese Council of Agriculture (COA) to halt plans for experiments that would give rabies to beagle puppies.
“It sounds like a scene from a horror movie: injecting rabies into beagle puppies and watching as they succumb to one of the most miserable of diseases,” wrote Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., on the Huffington Post. “This isn’t fiction. It’s a cruel experiment that is real and imminent. The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture wants to test whether a new strain of rabies will spread from ferret-badgers to dogs. It aims to inject rabies into at least 14 puppies, and it is hoping that the world will turn a blind eye to this awful experiment.”
Physicians Committee experts have worked with medical experts in the United States and Taiwan, as well as local government authorities, in an effort to stop the experiments. So far, however, the experiments are slated to go forward. That decision has left infectious disease experts wondering what purpose the experiments could serve. As the Physicians Committee has pointed out, it can be taken as a given that the virus will infect the puppies and cause the usual symptoms.
Vaccination is the most effective and expedient way to prevent the spread of rabies. Infecting dogs with rabies virus for the purpose of testing the efficacy of rabies vaccines is no longer considered necessary or ethical by rabies experts. Current rabies vaccines protect against most rabies viruses and rabies-like viruses. New vaccines can be tested using test-tube methods.
To stem the rabies outbreak, Physicians Committee associate director of laboratory medicine Kenneth Litwak, D.V.M., Ph.D., says, “COA must focus on widespread vaccination efforts. The proposed experiments will only show that rabies can spread from animal to animal and animal to human—we know this.”
The Physicians Committee recommends that the Taiwanese government ask all citizens to vaccinate their dogs and other animals by World Rabies Day on Sept. 28. PCRM is continuing to work to prevent the rabies experiments.