A history of rabies : The foundation for global canine rabies elimination
Lyssaviruses are ancient, but underappreciated, stymied in part by superstitions and ignorance, fragments of records over thousands of years, technical limitations, academic conservatism, and classical biopolitical thought. Once believed as a single entity, rabies is caused by > 17 lyssavirus species. Wildlife, particularly bats, perpetuate lyssaviruses, as agents of a disease of nature. Eurasia was the likely focus for the original spread of canine rabies. Canine domestication, adaptation of wildlife rabies virus to dogs, subsequent host shifts back to wild carnivores, and global translocation of rabid dogs during 15th century colonization provided the underpinnings to the current burden and distribution of rabies at a landscape scale. Inferred relationships of rabies to animal bites, the characteristic neurological signs and inevitability of death had a major influence on scientific thought and applications toward a crucial understanding of viral pathogenesis, diagnosis, epidemiology, prevention, and control throughout the 19th–20th centuries. Today, a renewed focus on a “Zero by 30” plan has the potential for the greatest impact upon the global elimination of human rabies via dogs in modern history. Owing to progress obtained over the past century, all tools are available for demonstration of this goal over the next decade in an applied One Health capacity. To this end, history informs the present, representative of threats born of complacency and globalization, as well as actualization of promises that international collaboration and technology offer in response to one of the oldest neglected tropical diseases.