Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 12:14 UK

Gates cash to help fight rabies

Rabid dog
The vaccination programme will cover domestic dogs

A charity run by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has awarded more than £6m to a UK-led project for the elimination of rabies in low-income countries.

The money will be spent on vaccinations for dogs in Tanzania, Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa and in the Visayas archipelago of the Philippines.

The programme is based on research work from Glasgow University's Vet School.

Academics found that domestic dogs played a key role in circulating the rabies virus.

The award of $9,996,674 was made to the World Health Organisation's department of Neglected Tropical Diseases by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The department aims is to roll out inoculations in the chosen regions with the hope of eliminating both dog and human rabies.


If we are going to successfully eradicate rabies, we need to vaccinate at least 70% of domestic dogs so hitting the virus at its source

Dr Sarah Cleaveland
Glasgow University Vet School

Dr Sarah Cleaveland and several colleagues from Glasgow University conducted research in Tanzania which paved the way for the programme.

This included analysis of the genetic sequence of the rabies virus.

"Our research found that the circulation of the single virus strain in the Serengeti is driven by domestic dogs," she said.

"If we are going to successfully eradicate rabies, we need to vaccinate at least 70% of domestic dogs so hitting the virus at its source.

"This hypothesis is founded on work I started in the 1990s which was later developed into a pilot vaccination programme around the Serengeti National Park, again inoculating domestic dogs.

"This project proved hugely successful and rabies has now disappeared from large areas of the ecosystem, so, we believe that elimination of the disease through dog vaccination is possible."

Dr Sarah Cleaveland will oversee the vaccination programme between Glasgow and Tanzania.

In total, 24 districts of the east African country will be covered by the vaccination scheme.



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