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KU Leuven to develop dual vaccine against yellow fever and rabies

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The RABYD-VAX consortium, led by KU Leuven (University of Leuven, Belgium), has started developing a cheap, temperature-stable, and easy-to-produce vaccine against both diseases at once

The RABYD-VAX consortium has set out to develop a vaccine that protects against both rabies and yellow fever. “The new vaccine could be included in routine childhood vaccinations,” says RABYD-VAX coordinator Johan Neyts from the KU Leuven Laboratory of Virology. “It will also be highly efficient, safe, temperature-stable, easy to produce and cheap. The vaccine can even be administered without a needle.” To accomplish all this, the researchers will use a novel vaccine technology called PLLAV, which was developed at KU Leuven.

Rabies is usually transmitted through dog bites. With a near 100 per cent fatality rate it is one of the deadliest diseases on earth, claiming an estimated 59,000 lives each year. “Most of these patients live in rural areas in Africa and Asia,” explains Neyts. “More than half of the victims are children. Many people are still not vaccinated because the vaccines are very expensive and they need to be transported and stored at cool temperatures.”

Vaccination for yellow fever is equally problematic, with an estimated 30,000 people dying each year. The mosquito-borne virus can cause a life-threatening infection with jaundice, systemic bleeding, shock, and organ failure. “The archaic production technique does not yield enough doses. There is a real danger that major outbreaks of yellow fever could become uncontrollable. Last year’s epidemic in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo is a dramatic case in point. The WHO had to use its entire strategic emergency stock just to vaccinate the six million people living in the Angolan capital Luanda.”

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