Prevention of rabies by local treatment of bites inflicted by rabid animals has occupied the attention of practitioners of the healing art from at least as early as the first century A. D. Celsus1 at that time and Galen2 in the next century advised cauterization with a hot iron. The latter also suggested that the wound be incised and drawing medicine applied in order to maintain a running ulcer for at least forty days.
Between that time and the eighteenth century, many other methods of treatment were employed. Many of these were based on mysticism or empiricism, often in conjunction with the actual cautery. Soon after the eighteenth century began, cauterizing agents other than the hot iron came into use. Silver nitrate and burning with gunpowder were employed. The first to advocate the use of nitric acid seems to have been Dr. Samuel Danforth.3
Little information is
SHAUGHNESSY HJ, ZICHIS J. PREVENTION OF EXPERIMENTAL RABIES: TREATMENT OF WOUNDS CONTAMINATED BY RABIES VIRUS WITH FUMING NITRIC ACID, SOAP SOLUTION, SULFANILAMIDE OR TINCTURE OF IODINE. JAMA. 1943;123(9):528–533. doi:10.1001/jama.1943.02840440010003
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