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Nature. 1991 Dec 19-26;354(6354):520-2.

Large-scale eradication of rabies using recombinant vaccinia-rabies vaccine.

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Department of Virology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Li├Ęge, Brussels, Belgium.


Rabies infection of domestic and wild animals is a serious problem throughout the world. The major disease vector in Europe is the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and rabies control has focused on vaccinating and/or culling foxes. Culling has not been effective, and the distribution of five vaccine baits is the only appropriate method for the vaccination of wild foxes. Although some European countries have conducted field vaccination campaigns using attenuated rabies virus strains, their use has not been extensively approved because they retain pathogenicity for rodents and can revert to virulence. These strains cannot be used in North America because they are pathogenic for the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) and are ineffective in the raccoon (Procyon lotor). We have constructed a recombinant vaccinia virus, VVTGgRAB, expressing the surface glycoprotein (G) of rabies virus (ERA strain). The recombinant was a highly effective vaccine in experimental animals, in captive foxes and in raccoons. We report here the results of a large-scale campaign of fox vaccination in a 2,200 km2 region of southern Belgium, an area in which rabies is prevalent. After distribution, 81% of foxes inspected were positive for tetracycline, a biomarker included in the vaccine bait and, other than one rabid fox detected close to the periphery of the treated area, no case of rabies, either in foxes or in domestic livestock, has been reported in the area.

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