A recombinant rabies vaccine that prevents viral shedding in rabid common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus)

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
By: , and 



Vampire bat transmitted rabies (VBR) is a continuing burden to public health and agricultural sectors in Latin America, despite decades-long efforts to control the disease by culling bat populations. Culling has been shown to disperse bats, leading to an increased spread of rabies. Thus, non-lethal strategies to control VBR, such as vaccination, are desired. Here, we evaluated the safety and efficacy of a viral-vectored recombinant mosaic glycoprotein rabies vaccine candidate (RCN-MoG) in vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) of unknown history of rabies exposure captured in México and transported to the United States. Vaccination with RCN-MoG was demonstrated to be safe, even in pregnant females, as no evidence of lesions or adverse effects were observed. We detected rabies neutralizing antibodies in 28% (8/29) of seronegative bats post-vaccination. Survival proportions of adult bats after rabies virus (RABV) challenge ranged from 55–100% and were not significantly different among treatments, pre- or post-vaccination serostatus, and route of vaccination, while eight pups (1–2.5 months of age) used as naïve controls all succumbed to challenge (P<0.0001). Importantly, we found that vaccination with RCN-MoG appeared to block viral shedding, even when infection proved lethal. Using real-time PCR, we did not detect RABV nucleic acid in the saliva samples of 9/10 vaccinated bats that succumbed to rabies after challenge (one was inconclusive). In contrast, RABV nucleic acid was detected in saliva samples from 71% of unvaccinated bats (10/14 sampled, plus one inconclusive) that died of the disease, including pups. Low seroconversion rates post-vaccination and high survival of non-vaccinated bats, perhaps due to earlier natural exposure, limited our conclusions regarding vaccine efficacy. However, our findings suggest a potential transmission-blocking effect of vaccination with RCN-MoG that could provide a promising strategy for controlling VBR in Latin America beyond longstanding culling programs.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A recombinant rabies vaccine that prevents viral shedding in rabid common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus)
Series title PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
DOI 10.1371/journal.pntd.0010699
Volume 16
Issue 8
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher PLOS
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description e0010699, 21 p.
Country Mexico
City San Luis Potosi
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