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A recombinant rabies vaccine that prevents viral shedding in rabid common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus)

August 26, 2022

Vampire bat transmitted rabies (VBR) is a continuing burden to public health and agricultural sectors in Latin America, despite decades-long efforts to control the disease by culling bat populations. Culling has been shown to disperse bats, leading to an increased spread of rabies. Thus, non-lethal strategies to control VBR, such as vaccination, are desired. Here, we evaluated the safety and efficacy of a viral-vectored recombinant mosaic glycoprotein rabies vaccine candidate (RCN-MoG) in vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) of unknown history of rabies exposure captured in México and transported to the United States. Vaccination with RCN-MoG was demonstrated to be safe, even in pregnant females, as no evidence of lesions or adverse effects were observed. We detected rabies neutralizing antibodies in 28% (8/29) of seronegative bats post-vaccination. Survival proportions of adult bats after rabies virus (RABV) challenge ranged from 55–100% and were not significantly different among treatments, pre- or post-vaccination serostatus, and route of vaccination, while eight pups (1–2.5 months of age) used as naïve controls all succumbed to challenge (P<0.0001). Importantly, we found that vaccination with RCN-MoG appeared to block viral shedding, even when infection proved lethal. Using real-time PCR, we did not detect RABV nucleic acid in the saliva samples of 9/10 vaccinated bats that succumbed to rabies after challenge (one was inconclusive). In contrast, RABV nucleic acid was detected in saliva samples from 71% of unvaccinated bats (10/14 sampled, plus one inconclusive) that died of the disease, including pups. Low seroconversion rates post-vaccination and high survival of non-vaccinated bats, perhaps due to earlier natural exposure, limited our conclusions regarding vaccine efficacy. However, our findings suggest a potential transmission-blocking effect of vaccination with RCN-MoG that could provide a promising strategy for controlling VBR in Latin America beyond longstanding culling programs.

Publication Year 2022
Title A recombinant rabies vaccine that prevents viral shedding in rabid common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pntd.0010699
Authors Elsa M. Cárdenas-Canales, Andres Velasco-Villa, James A. Ellison, Panayampalli S. Satheshkumar, Jorge E. Osario, Tonie E. Rocke
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Index ID 70236340
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center