Getting rabies under control
Issued: Mon, 04 Jul 2011 11:40:00 BST
While the number of human deaths from rabies is not on the scale of malaria or HIV/AIDS, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) recent increases in human rabies deaths in South America and parts of Africa and Asia are evidence that the disease is re-emerging as a serious public health issue.
The most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies in people is by eliminating rabies in dogs through animal vaccinations.
Pioneering research carried out by Professor Sarah Cleaveland led to the WHO and the University securing a grant of close to $10 million from the Gates Foundation to eliminate rabies in low-income countries. This was the first Gates Foundation grant to be awarded for rabies control and elimination, and marks a paradigm shift by focusing on animal interventions to protect human health. The money is being spent rolling out a canine vaccination programme – targeting domestic dogs – in three areas, Tanzania, Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa and the Visayas archipelago of the Philippines.
The mass canine vaccination campaigns started in the large cities of Dar es Salaam and Morogoro with the programme then rolling out to rural communities. The campaigns in Tanzania are now in their second year, and Professor Cleaveland remains involved as a technical advisor on the programme.
Professor Cleaveland’s team have also received a grant of £635,000 from the Medical Research Council to provide additional support for epidemiological analysis of the data generated from the Gates/WHO project. This research will be led by Glasgow Professor Dan Haydon. Using state-of-the-art mathematical modelling approaches, real-time feedback will be provided to the field teams to allow for iterative improvements in the design of canine vaccination strategies, as such campaigns are rolled out across large geographic scales.
Professor Haydon’s research will also incorporate advances in genetic sequencing technology and analyses to generate high-resolution information about the different variants of the rabies virus circulating in the project area.
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