Glowing fluorescent gel used to estimate the potential effectiveness of spreadable vaccines to control diseases in wild bats

A study led by the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and the University of Michigan, has found that a vaccination programme could substantially reduce rabies transmission in wild vampire bats and reduce the risk of lethal infections in humans and livestock. Image of Bat

The study was carried out in Peru, where the fluorescent gel, called Rhodamine b, was applied topically to bats in three colonies and acted as a marker to simulate the bat-to-bat spread of an oral rabies vaccine. When the gel was ingested by bats that groomed each other, it led to fluorescence in the hair follicles of the bats, which was then monitored by fluorescent microscopic analysis of hair samples collected by the scientists.

Dr Daniel Streicker, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine and the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, said: “Vampire bat rabies still has severe medical and agricultural impacts across North, Central and South America despite decades of efforts to mitigate its burden. Our findings demonstrated that bat-to-bat transfer oral rabies vaccines could increase population-level immunity up to 2.6 times beyond the same effort using conventional, non-spreadable vaccines”. 

The full paper, ‘Fluorescent biomarkers demonstrate prospects for spreadable vaccines to control disease transmission in wild bats’ can be found here.

First published: 6 December 2019