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UGA vet school receives $1.18 million NIH grant for rabies vaccine investigations
Date:10/4/2007

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine a $1.18 million grant to develop rabies virus vaccines. This award is the continuation of a previous four-year $837,000 grant issued by NIAID in 2002 to initiate the study.

Zhen Fu, professor of veterinary pathology at UGA, is the principal investigator of the study, along with Ralph Tripp, GRA Eminent Scholar and professor of infectious diseases at the College of Veterinary Medicine, who will investigate the immunological aspects. Fus study is seeking a less expensive and less invasive means of vaccinating humans and animals. The proposed vaccine will use a genetically modified form of the live virus; one that will be potent enough to establish immunity with fewer doses, yet is very safe because the genetic modification makes the virus unable to cause the disease.

Current rabies vaccines are made from an inactivated (killed) virus, explained Fu. Although they are effective, multiple vaccines are needed to induce protective immunity. Todays vaccines also are very expensive and require five doses for people bitten by rabid animals or animals suspected of being rabid, making it cost prohibitive for people in developing countries where rabies vaccines are needed the most.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 55,000 human deaths, primarily in Asia and Africa, are attributed annually to rabies. As a zoonotic viral disease that attacks the central nervous system, rabies infects both domestic and wild animals. It may be transmitted through bites or, less commonly, through close contact with saliva of infected animals on open areas such as skin scratches.

We propose to develop a live form of the vaccine by incorporation of immune stimulatory molecules into the virus genome, said Fu. By doing so, we expect to develop a vaccine with greater potency y
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Contact: Tracy Giese
tgiese@uga.edu
706-583-5485
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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