Joint effort assists Afghan veterinarian in battle against rabies

by Chuck Roberts
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs

Dr. Ezatuallah Jaheed is waging a battle against a common enemy in Afghanistan that has remained virtually invincible.

His foe is rabies, which kills an estimated 55,000 people each year in Asia and Africa.

In Afghanistan, rabies is prevalent from sources such as stray dogs wandering city streets. When an Afghan citizen is bitten by an animal suspected of having rabies, the capability doesn’t exist to diagnose and treat the victim. Except in a few rare cases, the outcome is 100 percent fatal once clinical signs of rabies begin.
But the future looks brighter as a result of a recent visit by Dr. Jaheed to Landstuhl.

During his three-week visit, the professor of veterinary pathology at Kabul University (Faculty of Veterinary Science) trained on techniques and lab equipment used for the detection and treatment of rabies.

The plan is for the same techniques and equipment to be established at Kabul University. The diagnostic laboratory would be funded by governmental agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and supported administratively through enduring relationships Dr. Jaheed developed with counterparts at the U.S. Army Veterinary Laboratory Europe and at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“I will take all of this knowledge back to share with students and colleagues in my country where this information is very important and useful for my people,” said Dr. Jaheed, who is the only veterinary pathologist in Afghanistan.

Two of Dr. Jaheed’s counterparts that he will keep close ties with are Leslie Fuhrmann, who has worked in the rabies lab at VLE for 10 years, and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Greg Saturday, who met Dr. Jaheed while in Afghanistan to deploy a rapid rabies diagnostic test for U.S. Veterinary Corp personnel.

Dr. Saturday said he hopes to see Dr. Jaheed and his colleagues working autonomously in about a year in their effort to eradicate rabies in Afghanistan.
In addition to his study of rabies, Dr. Jaheed spent time studying how to process tissue into glass slides, as well as the histopathological diagnosis of endemic diseases in his country such as foot and mouth disease and anthrax.

“This has been a great example of interagency and joint cooperation between USAID, the Vet Lab, LRMC and Kabul University toward the advancement of science,” said Dr. Saturday. “Hopefully we have put into place a continuous exchange of knowledge that will benefit the colleagues of Dr. Jaheed, the ordinary people of Afghanistan and hope for others to come.”

The goal is for autonomy in establishing the framework to help eradicate rabies in his country as soon as possible, but on a personal level Dr. Jaheed has a longer outlook. “I hope this relationship continues forever.”