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Generalised cranial artery spasm in human rabies. Dev Biol (Basel) 2008;131:367-75



Pubmed ID


Scopus ID

2-s2.0-44649169694   18 Citations


In 2004, a teenager survived bat-associated rabies through the Milwaukee protocol (MP). This survivor and another patient with dog-associated rabies were found to have developed deficiencies of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) and associated neurotransmitters. BH4 is also essential for neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), so rabies is predicted to cause constriction of cerebral arteries. We assume that rabies virus, which almost exclusively targets neurons, would disproportionately affect cerebral over systemic perfusion by disrupting nNOS and lead to generalised cerebral artery spasm. Cranial artery vasospasm, therefore, was actively sought in two rabies patients, with the intention to specifically treat with BH4 and L-arginine when necessary. Flow velocities and resistive (RI) or pulsatility indices (PI) of middle cerebral arteries (MCA) were obtained by transcranial doppler ultrasound (TCD). A survival analysis of 8 attempts at the MP is presented. Of these, two cases are reported here. The first case is one child with bat-associated rabies who developed severe bilateral MCAspasm on hospital day (HD)-10 that responded to very low dose (0.2 mcg/kg/min) nitroprusside. The second case, a child with dog-associated rabies, developed spasm of MCA on HD-6 that responded to 6 mg/kg/day BH4. A second spasm with high RI (without cerebral oedema or increased intracranial pressure) responded to 20 mg/kg/day BH4 and 0.5 g/kg/dose L-arginine. Review of the TCD of the first child showed a similar second spasm seven days after first episode. Cerebral artery vasospasm occurred in the two children with rabies, but was clinically silent by standard monitoring. Spasm responded to drugs directed at the NOS pathway. Animal models for treatment of rabies are sorely needed to evaluate therapy.

Author List

Willoughby RE, Roy-Burman A, Martin KW, Christensen JC, Westenkirschner DF, Fleck JD, Glaser C, Hyland K, Rupprecht CE


Rodney E. Willoughby MD Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Blood Flow Velocity
Cerebral Arteries
Cerebrovascular Circulation
Dog Diseases
Nitric Oxide Synthase
Treatment Outcome
Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial
Vasospasm, Intracranial