New temperature-resistant vaccine being developed for rabies and yellow fever at KU Leuven

Publish Date : 2017-06-20

Rabies and yellow fever causes ten thousand deaths each year. Although vaccines are available for these diseases but there are various drawbacks. Some of them are available at higher cost, and there is an inadequate supply. In addition, there is aneed to store and transport these vaccines at controlled temperatures. A collaboration of various experts in European institutes(called The RABYD-VAX Consortium) led by KU Leuven has started developing new temperature-immune, easy to produce, cheap and combo vaccines for both diseases.

Rabies is a deadly disease that isusually transmitted through dog bite. It has almost 100% fatality rate. It causes 58,000 to 59,000 lives per year.  “Most of these patients live in rural areas in Africa and Asia,” said RABYD-VAX coordinator Johan Neyts from the KU Leuven Laboratory of Virology. He further explains, “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.”

Yellow fever generally transmitted through mosquitoes. Yellow fever virus associated with jaundice, shock, systemic bleeding, and organ failure could be life-threatening, claiming 30,000 lives each year. The major drawbacks in this case are insufficient supply, lack of trained staff, and a requirement of cold chain transportation for vaccines. Last year’s outbreak in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo is a dramatic case in point. The World Health Organization has used their entire strategic emergency stock just to vaccinate the 6 million people living in the Angolan capital Luanda.  This is more disturbing as Brazil reported an outbreak of yellow fever.

The RABYD-VAX Consortium, led by Johan Neyts at the KU Leuven Laboratory of Virology, got €4.1m funds from EU's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. They have started to develop a vaccine that protects against both yellow fever and rabies that could be included in the routine vaccinations during childhood. These vaccines will be cheap, easy to produce on large scale, highly safe & efficient, temperature-resistant and can be given without a needle.