The RABYD-VAX consortium, led by the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium, has begun developing a cheap, temperature-stable, and easy-to-produce vaccine against rabies and yellow fever.
Rabies and yellow fever claim tens of thousands of lives each year. Vaccines already exist but various drawbacks hinder their efficient distribution. One is the need to transport and store these vaccines at cool temperatures.
Rabies is usually transmitted through dog bites. With a near 100% fatality rate, it is one of the deadliest diseases on Earth, claiming an estimated 59,000 lives each year.
RABYD-VAX co-ordinator Johan Neyts from the KU Leuven Laboratory of Virology said: “Most of these patients live in rural areas in Africa and Asia.
“More than half of the victims are children. Many people are still not vaccinated because the vaccines are very expensive and they need to be transported and stored at cool temperatures.”
Vaccination for yellow fever is equally problematic, with an estimated 30,000 people dying each year.
Neyts said: “The archaic production technique does not yield enough doses. There is a real danger that major outbreaks of yellow fever could become uncontrollable.
“Last year’s epidemic in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo is a dramatic case in point. The WHO had to use its entire strategic emergency stock just to vaccinate the six million people living in the Angolan capital Luanda.”
The RABYD-VAX consortium has now set out to develop a vaccine that protects against both rabies and yellow fever. “The new vaccine could be included in routine childhood vaccinations,” says Neyts. “It will also be highly efficient, safe, temperature-stable, easy to produce and cheap. The vaccine can even be administered without a needle.”