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Study: Adult rabies prevention treatment safe, effective in children, too

Study: Adult rabies prevention treatment safe, effective in children, too
A rabies treatment used with adults has been found safe for use in children, researchers reported in a study published Wednesday. File Photo by Horoscope/Shutterstock

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A treatment used to prevent rabies in adults after possible exposure also appears to be safe and effective in children, according to a new study published Wednesday by Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics.

The treatment, rabies immune globulin-human, which is sold under the brand name KEDRAB, successfully prevented rabies in 30 study participants age 17 and younger, the data showed.

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Although 70% of the study participants experienced treatment-related side effects, all of them were mild, the researchers said.

"[This study] confirms that this product addresses an unmet need in children who may have been exposed to rabies," study co-author Dr. Nicholas Hobart-Porter, a pediatric emergency physician at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, said in a press release.

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In the United States, someone is treated for possible exposure to rabies every 10 minutes, and the disease causes up to 60,000 deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Rabies is extremely rare in the United States, due in part to widespread pet vaccination and animal control programs, public health surveillance and testing and treatment availability.

Roughly 40% of global rabies cases involve children age 15 and younger, and most encounters of the disease follow a dog bite, the WHO estimates. The disease is fatal in 100% of cases once symptoms appear.

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Those not previously vaccinated against rabies who have been exposed to the virus are treated with rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, which includes a series of four doses of rabies vaccine given over a two-week period, according to Hobart-Porter and his colleagues.

For this study, researchers in the United States and Israel evaluated the safety and effectiveness of KEDRAB in 30 people younger than 17 with suspected or confirmed rabies exposure over an 84-day period.

Each participant was treated with KEDRAB either around detectable wound sites or given intramuscularly, along with the first of a four-dose series of rabies vaccine.

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The study did not include a placebo control group as placebo treatment of exposed patients is ethically unacceptable due to the near 100% fatality rate of rabies, the researchers said.

None of the participants showed an active rabies infection at any point during the study, and no deaths or serious adverse events occurred.

Although 70% of the participants experienced some form of side effect after treatment, all of these were mild.

KEDRAB has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in adults.

The results of this study have been submitted to the agency in hopes it will be cleared for use in children, the researchers said.

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"Despite the large proportion of pediatric cases, limited safety and efficacy data had previously existed for use in pediatric patients," said study co-author Dr. James Linakis, of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

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