In what doctors claim to be only the second case in the country where a rabies patient has survived, the Command Hospital (Western Command), Chandimandir, Panchkula, has managed to bring back a comatose 16-year-old suffering from the disease to consciousness.
He is reportedly only the 13th case, worldwide, since 1976, when records began to be kept, to have survived rabies.
Hira Singh (16), a native of Gurdaspur, had been bitten by a stray dog on March 25, and was given four doses of anti-rabies vaccine at a local hospital. He slipped into a coma by April 29. He needed a ventilator and airway support when shifted from a private hospital to Command Hospital with diagnosis of rabies on May 8.
Colonel FMH Ahmad, the neurologist, who treated Hira, told HT, “When he came to us, he was in coma.
After the treatment at the Command Hospital, he is now awake. He is smiling, but is not a normal person yet as he is not speaking. His brain has been damaged. Neurological recovery takes two years.”
The boy is being fed through a tube in the stomach. “He is under observation and his health is a matter of concern. However, his father is happy as the boy has survived,” said Colonel Ahmad.
Colonel Ranjit Nair, nephrologist, Colonel Vijay Dutta, lung specialist, and Colonel Hari Kumar, endocrinologist, are the other doctors who treated Hira Singh.
“Hira is only the second case where a rabies patient has survived. The first case of a survivor was reported in April this year at the Goa Medical College. The research paper regarding it was published in the Journal of Clinical Sciences by Dr Aaron de Souza and Professor SN Madhusudana,” said Colonel Ahmad.
“Hira’s case is important as we can learn how did he survive. Rabies patients die horribly in isolation wards. This is an opportunity to look for a cure for the disease,” he added.
Evaluation of patient
The patient’s evaluation was carried out with the expertise of the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Department of Virology, Pune, and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS), Department of Neurovirology, Bangalore, using cutting-edge molecular techniques. The AFMC reported a positive test of the virus DNA.
Prof SN Madhusudana, the WHO expert on rabies and co-author of the first Indian report on a rabies survivor, found evidence to support diagnosis of rabies. The skin biopsy, also from NIMHANS, confirmed the diagnosis.
“I have been following the patient from day one. The case is a miracle. I have been practicing neurology since 1991 and this is the first survivor I have seen,” said Dr Vivek Lal, professor and head of neurology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.
Prof Madhusudana also confirmed that Hira Singh’s case was of a rabies survivor.
“Thirteen reported survivors, including this boy, in 60,000-odd cases annually, all fatal, underscore the uniqueness of the phenomenon,” said Colonel Ahmad.