Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reducing Rabies

Rabies is a global health issue, claiming fifty to sixty thousand lives every year. Most of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The rabies virus is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected dog. Because children are the most susceptible to attacks by rabid dogs, they account for the vast majority of deaths.

Veterinarian Guy Palmer is conducting research in Tanzania on a sustainable rabies vaccination program. Palmer explained, “If we can get around 60% we can actually control a disease outbreak. We don’t need to vaccinate every dog. We need to vaccinate somewhere around 60%. So, the question becomes, can you actually achieve that level of vaccination in a low resource setting?”

It costs us about three dollars to vaccinate a dog in those regions, and about one dollar of the vaccine cost is keeping  it cold and that’s not something that’s, at the moment, sustainable by either the individuals nor by the government.

 Silk polymers have the potential to revolutionize the storage of vaccines. Strands of silk proteins are purified from silkworm cocoons and are incorporated into the vaccine serum. The silk polymers don’t affect the vaccine’s effectiveness, but they stabilize the serum so that it doesn’t degrade under high temperatures. These polymers can protect vaccines at up to 45 degrees Celsius for more than six months. The vaccines remain more than eighty percent potent despite storage at these temperatures.

Other major costs is transport so the aim is to actually get the vaccines to the local communities and  they can maintain them locally and do the local vaccinations.

Rabies vaccination studies may present other healthcare opportunities. The vaccination clinics could also be used to provide care and treatment for children when they bring their dogs to be vaccinated.

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