New Rabies Challenge Studies May Show a Longer Duration of Immunity in Dogs

In an attempt to prove that rabies vaccines have a five- or seven-year duration of immunity, doctors will start two challenge studies next month at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. French doctors completed a similar five-year study, but these trials will be a first in North America, said Jean Dodds, DVM.

Dodds joined pet owner Kris Christine and Ronald Schulz, PhD, to raise funds for trials through the Rabies Challenge Fund. The group will soon send the university $150,000 to get studies underway. Doctors estimate that it will cost $1.5 million to complete the studies. Schulz is a professor at the University of Wisconsin and helped draft AAHA’s Canine Vaccine Guidelines.

Although Dodds explained that she is “not cavalier about the serious, fatal disease of rabies, and fully understands the need to immunize animals against rabies, our current laws and booster requirements need updating.”

To change state laws, doctors must follow federal and university animal care and use requirements so results can be submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Study participants will follow Title 9 CFR USDA Regulations for licensing vaccines, “in order to get a rabies vaccine license for five and then seven years,” Dodds added.

Industry-wide, Dodds hopes that veterinary professionals will be more proactive about the issue of rabies vaccines. Specifically, she would like to see more doctors recognize the fact that some pets have serious adverse reactions to boosters, not give the vaccine to unhealthy or chronically ill pets, and run vaccine titers to assess immunity.

“Nearly all titered animals that were appropriately vaccinated for rabies in the past have high or even sky high serum rabies antibody titers,” she said.

More information about the studies and perspectives of the people involved can be found online.

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