The cultural impact of rabies, the fatal neurological disease caused by infection with rabies virus, registers throughout recorded history. Although rabies has been the subject of large-scale public health interventions, chiefly through vaccination efforts, the disease continues to take the lives of about 40,000–70,000 people per year, roughly 40% of whom are children. Most of these deaths occur in resource-poor countries, where lack of infrastructure prevents timely reporting and postexposure prophylaxis and the ubiquity of domestic and wild animal hosts makes eradication unlikely. Moreover, although the disease is rarer than other human infections such as influenza, the prognosis following a bite from a rabid animal is poor: There is currently no effective treatment that will save the life of a symptomatic rabies patient. This review focuses on the major unanswered research questions related to rabies virus pathogenesis, especially those connecting the disease progression of rabies with the complex dysfunction caused by the virus in infected cells. The recent applications of cutting-edge research strategies to this question are described in detail.


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