The world’s most diabolical virus

If you can make it to the pub tonight – be prepared for a Pint of Science.

Kirstyn Brunker will give the low down on rabies and what makes it so terrible - sharing her own experiences of working on rabies and looking at how the latest sequencing technologies could revolutionize how we track rabies epidemics.

If you can’t make the talk – then check out the blog here!

Kirstyn getting started with the MinION

Kirstyn getting started with the MinION



May 6th 2017

Congratulations! New papers out in a special issue of Frontiers in Veterinary Science


Maganga Sambo, Emmanual Mpolya, and Riana Arief have all got their papers out in this latest special issue, which provides a global perspective on current issues for reaching the 2030 target for the global elimination of dog-mediated rabies.

Maganga’s work provides useful insight into the pros and cons of different approaches used to measure vaccination coverage in dogs. His key finding is that post-vaccination transects to count vaccinated (collared) dogs provide a rapid and relatively cheap way of quickly assessing coverage than most sampling-based survey methods which quickly become based and inaccurate if there is a lot of variation in dog ownership. But, transects generally overestimate coverage (by 10-20%) because puppies and juveniles are often missed during transects and these animals tend to not be vaccinated, so coverage estimates need to be adjusted accordingly.

Emmanuel describes the progress made during the course of a large-scale rabies elimination demonstration project in Southeast Tanzania. Although the project encountered some challenges to progress, overall the rabies situation looks very promising with many districts showing major improvements in demand for post-exposure vaccines. Critically the project demonstrated that with experience local government teams are able to considerably improve the implementation of mass dog vaccination campaigns to achieve levels of coverage that are needed for elimination.

Riana reports the determinants of vaccination coverage in a very different setting, the island Province of Bali in Indonesia. She also used mark recapture methods to investigate levels of vaccination coverage achieved during campaigns. She found that coverage was generally high and sufficient to achieve elimination of disease if continued. However, rural and suburban areas tended to have lowest coverage and young puppies were the animals least likely to be vaccinated. A continued challenge is the need for long-lasting, cheap, and quick methods to mark vaccinated animals and reassure communities of the reach of vaccination campaigns long after the campaign is completed.

There are lots of other really useful articles in the issue including summaries of the challenges to achieving continent-wide elimination as encountered in Latin America, estimates of the vaccine needs for scaling up the global campaign and a policy perspective on how to progress further faster. The special topic is well worth a read!

Outfoxing rabies! Laurie Baker reveals lessons for rabies elimination drawn from Western Europe

Loads of really fun stuff going on for world rabies day today including dog vaccinations in Tanzania, fundraising by Glasgow Vet students, and by Health Protection Scotland, and a great blog post from PhD student Laurie Baker for Naturally Speaking our Institute podcast and blog at the University of Glasgow.

Laurie is working with colleagues Thomas Mueller and Conrad Freuling at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut in Germany. The FLI is a WHO collaborating centre for rabies surveillance and research and the team coordinates the European Rabies Bulletin. There is a pretty amazing story behind the elimination of fox rabies from Western Europe.

Using the data from the European Rabies Bulletin we made some headway into understanding the determinants of the time to eliminate fox rabies here. Laurie is now applying more sophisticated statistical approaches to these data for her PhD and has some exciting results in the pipeline. Thanks also to Mica De la Puente Leon for illustrating the retreat of fox rabies across Europe with the implementation of oral rabies vaccination.


Our new article on mobile phone-based surveillance in Tanzania is out!

Congratulations to Zac Mtema at Ifakara Health Institute and the entire team involved in this enormous effort! This project has been years in the making and the system is continually being improved, with new functionality, new websites, new frontline users and new results. The paper can be read in full here, and I wrote an article about the work for The Conversation.

This project won the Guardian University Award in the International Project Category. Joel Changalucha, Maganga Sambo and I celebrated at the ceremony in London. We'll be posting some more updates on research involving the surveillance system very soon.


Congratulations Kirstyn!

Congratulations Kirstyn!

Kirstyn Brunker passed her PhD Viva with flying colours! Many thanks to Samantha Lycett and Daniel Streicker for examining Kirstyn's thesis. No doubt lots of exciting science to come for Kirstyn, but first cake....

Brilliant baking @MaryRARyan and Darryl McLennan with an amazing post viva rabid dog cake #bakeyourstudyspecies

Brilliant baking @MaryRARyan and Darryl McLennan with an amazing post viva rabid dog cake #bakeyourstudyspecies


In December 2015, WHO, OIE and FAO organized a global conference to push forward the agenda for the global elimination of dog-mediated rabies. The meeting was opened by WHO Director General Margaret Chan, and brought together major players in the policy arena, potential donors and representatives from around the world who hope to take this forward in their respective countries or regions. It was fantastic to see so many amazing examples of progress being made in all parts of the world where rabies is still a problem. Many important lessons were highlighted too - elimination will not be easy - but many of the challenges have been overcome before for rabies in some parts of the world and for other diseases too. I gave (probably my most nervous) presentation on the impacts of rabies and benefits of prevention! The challenge has been very much set. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, 2030 is the target year for global elimination of rabies. The Global Alliance for Rabies Control has launched the End Rabies Now campaign, and the momentum has begun to roll. 


REDIPRA in Brasilia: policy and practice in the Americas

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) hosts the Rabies Directors of the Americas biannual meeting which Claire Harris and I had the privilege to attend this year. We were put to work to deliver a pre-REDIPRA seminar on surveillance, which provided us with a fantastic opportunity to get to grips with the challenges the region is now facing: having been so successful in their rabies control efforts, there is now increasing pressure to stop vaccinating in areas which are now rabies free. But what if they are not free? And what if they are free, but their neighbours are not? And what about the few focal areas where rabies still persists? What are the obstacles that are hindering progress in these places? And how does their progress affect the region as a whole? These were the kinds of questions that we were asking and are now being asked of us - very exciting but also very daunting! Full details of the REDIPRA meeting can be found here.