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New Rabies Vaccine May Require Only One Shot

Scientists have developed a rabies vaccine that may require only one shot to prevent the fatal disease. The new vaccine is made from live virus from which a key viral gene [the matrix (M) gene] has been removed so that the virus is inhibited from reproducing in the body. This vaccine appeared safe and effective in tests in mice and non-human primates. The immune response induced with this vaccine is so substantial that only one inoculation may be sufficient, according to Dr. James McGettigan, senior author of the study. The current standard rabies vaccine is made from inactivated virus and the normal post-exposure regimen is five shots of vaccine and one of rabies immunoglobulin over a period of 28 days. Worldwide, the annual number of rabies-related deaths is estimated to be 40,000 to 70,000. The disease is endemic in developing areas, where the six-shot post-exposure regimen is not feasible for many people due to cost and availability. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 10 million people worldwide receive the post-exposure regimen, which presents a financial burden to both industrialized and developing countries. "Developing countries do not have the resources to vaccinate people six times after exposure, so many of these 10 million do not receive the full regimen," said Dr. McGettigan. "Therefore, simpler and less expensive vaccine regimens are needed. The alternative may also be to treat people pre-exposure, as they are with many of the current vaccines used. Although our vaccine was tested primarily to be a post-exposure vaccine, the data we collected show it would be effective as a pre-exposure vaccine as well." This research was published online on September 18 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. [Press release] [JID abstract]