Rabies is an example of a disease where the One Health concept is essential for control. The best way to control the disease is control of rabies in animal reservoirs. Therefore scientists, vets and doctors need to work together. The World Health Organisation, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN have a tripartite agreement in place to make this concept a reality, and work towards elimination of dog-transmitted human rabies.

Key Facts

  • Rabies is caused by a virus that is transmitted in the saliva of infected animals
  • The virus attacks the nerves and brain of its victims, and the disease is fatal once symptoms appear
  • Rabies kills one person every 10 minutes throughout the world, mostly in poor rural communities
  • The most effective way to control rabies in humans is to control the disease in animals with safe and effective vaccines
  • In many parts of the world, domestic dogs are a source of rabies but wildlife can be infected and also act as a reservoir (maintaining the virus and infecting dogs and humans)

Unmet needs/challenges?

Despite being preventable by vaccination, Rabies is difficult to eliminate. Some of the reasons for this are:

 PEOPLE AND POLITICS

  • Cultural attitudes to dogs and wildlife vary hugely across the world: Misunderstandings and misconceptions can act as barriers to control and risk peoples lives.
  • Rabies has become a disease of poverty, affecting mainly resource poorer regions.
  • Rabies does not respect cultural or political boundaries and therefore international collaboration is essential for control

THE VIRUS

  • Rabies has a remarkable ability to transmit readily from one species to another, and much remains to be understood about how it can do this.
  • The virus is hidden in the nervous system of victims for a long time, complicating diagnosis
  • Quicker, easier and more reliable diagnostic tests, combined with better communications and data handling, are needed to quantify the burden of disease.

What is NTDhub doing?

Studying why, when and how rabies virus spreads from region to region, with a focus on the Middle East and Caucasus (Dr Horton and Dr Kalantar-Motamedi, Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award, Understanding constraints and drivers of cross species transmission)

Studying how rabies virus transits and adapts to from one species to another (Dr Horton and Dr Kalantar-Motamedi, Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award, Understanding constraints and drivers of cross species transmission)

Advocacy, raising awareness and policy research: engaging with stakeholders, providing technical assistance and studying attitudes and knowledge of rabies in different cultures. Activities include collaboration with APHA to deliver technical cooperation in Caucasus and Central Asia (Dr Horton), Contribution to the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices regarding rabies in Kenya (Student project, Siana Douglas Hamilton) and recently awarded PhD studentship assessing a portfolio approach to rabies control (Emma Taylor)

External sources (links)