A team of virologists at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia have genetically engineered a new rabies vaccine that appears to work after a single jab.
Currently anyone bitten by a rabid animal is required to undergo a series of painful vaccinations to stop the deadly virus. But the researchers took the virus and focused on a protein that triggers a powerful immune system response. They inserted several copies of the gene encoding the protein into the viral genome, according to Nature, and eliminated toxicity by altering two amino acids. The team found that the new vaccine eliminated the rabies virus from mice after a single shot.
"When you express a lot of glycoprotein, it makes it a better target because they're the target for the immune system," says co-author Craig Hooper, also at Thomas Jefferson. "But it's also more toxic. For the immune system that's a good thing: If the first cells you infect are going to die, that means you bump up immune response very quickly, so you prevent the virus from spreading."
If they're right and the same approach works in humans, the researchers will resolve one of the biggest problems associated with treating rabies victims. Because multiple injections are required, the vaccination schedule can be a big hurdle for people living in communities far from health clinics. More than 99 percent of the 55,000 people killed each year by rabies live in developing countries.
- read the article from Nature