University of GlasgowEliminating rabies

Eliminating rabies

Rabies is a horrifying and deadly viral disease that kills tens of thousands of people every year in low- and middle-income countries, despite being 100 per cent preventable. Researchers at the University of Glasgow are at the forefront of research into eliminating rabies.

The virus is transmitted through the saliva or tissues from an infected mammal to another mammal. Most human cases of rabies are caused by a bite or scratch from an infected dog, though rabies also exists in other animal reservoirs including bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes.

Rabies transmitted by dogs used to be found almost all over the world, however it is has been eliminated from dog populations in developed countries. Most rabies deaths today are in Africa and Asia where rabies is still prevalent in dogs. Tragically, many of the victims of rabies are children from poor, rural and often marginalised communities where there is little access to healthcare. Rabies therefore exemplifies both global and local health inequalities.

Professor Katie Hampson and her colleagues in the University’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine are leading the research to eradicate rabies in low and middle-income countries.

Her research team have generated critical evidence that has played a key role in persuading international agencies to advocate for the global elimination of rabies deaths by 2030.

The team are also generating detailed estimates of the global burden of rabies and informing prevention, control and elimination strategies. 

Influencing policy on a global level

The team have been recognised for influencing policy on a global level, with their research contributing to the World Health Organization’s recognition that it is now feasible to eliminate global canine rabies.

Most recently, this research has been central to the development of World Health Organization protocols for verification of freedom from disease through mass vaccination of domestic dogs and influential in shaping policy on human post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) needed to prevent the onset of this fatal disease in people bitten by rabid dogs. 

As the science lead of the WHO Rabies Modeling Consortium, Professor Hampson’s work was instrumental in informing the latest WHO position paper (2018) that now recommends a shorter simplified 1-week PEP regimen that is more practical and affordable for patients. These recommendations guided Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in their decision to invest in life-saving human post-exposure vaccines in their 2021-2025 strategy. 

Previously, Professor Hampson led a consortium to estimate the global burden of canine rabies, bringing together a large number of contributors from many rabies endemic countries. The resulting publication in the Lancet (cited over 600 times) is widely used by advocates of rabies elimination. The team have collectively advised the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the Pan-American Health Organization, as well as national governments on large-scale rabies surveillance and control programmes including countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador and South Africa. 

The quality, creativity and innovation of this research is recognised through sequential Wellcome Trust Fellowships and numerous other competitively acquired research awards.  

Find out more:

Eliminating rabies
Professor Katie Hampson
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine
WHO position paper (2018)
Publication in the Lancet

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