UofG and OIRSA work together to better understand Central America rabies spread

The University of Glasgow has signed an important 3.5 year inter-institutional agreement with the Central American organisation OIRSA (Organismo Internacional Regional De Sanidad Agropecuaria), to better understand the corridors of viral spread of rabies in the region.


OIRSA, an institution which brings together 9 countries in Central America including El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, specialises in animal and plant health. The new agreement will bring the work of OIRSA together with whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis from the research team at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, to better understand the spread of rabies through Central America.

In the countries that make up OIRSA, rabies transmitted by vampire bats has a significant impact on human health, as well as economic losses associated with livestock deaths. In addition, rabies transmitted by dogs in several countries continues to be a threat to global efforts to eliminate human deaths from the virus, transmitted by dogs, by 2030.

Due to advances in technology in molecular biology, genomic analysis now offers many opportunities for surveillance and control of viruses that affect animal and human health. However, there is currently a reduced capacity to perform viral genomic sequencing in Central America.

This new agreement will see UofG researchers using their expertise and digital tools developed at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, to help strengthen the diagnostic and genomic capacity for rabies virus in the official veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the member countries of OIRSA.

Dr Daniel Streicker, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, said: “The agreement with OIRSA represents an important step towards improving the prevention and control of vampire bat transmitted rabies in Central America. Over the coming years, we hope to use genomics to gain new, actionable insights into how the virus spreads within and between countries, while also providing training opportunities for students and researchers on both sides of the Atlantic."

Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk or elizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

First published: 9 June 2021

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