EEB Thursday Seminar- Rabies control in Latin America: An oral vaccine for vampire bats
Dr. Kevin Bakker, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Glasgow
In Central and South America, where subsistence and small-scale farming is commonplace, the loss of even a single farm animal can lead to dire consequences. Vampire bat-transmitted rabies creates a loss of an estimated $30M/yr in livestock mortality across the Americas. Typical control measures, such as the culling of bats or livestock immunization have proven ineffective, and sometimes counterproductive in halting rabies transmission. Bat culling is accomplished via a topical poison in gel form, which is spread through contact and grooming in the colony. With the success of the oral-rabies vaccine in North American raccoons and European foxes, a raccoon pox vectored rabies vaccine has been specifically developed for bats. To address the feasibility of such a vaccine, we field-tested a biomarker, thus simulating vaccine deployment, in four vampire bat colonies near Lima, Peru. Because understanding the within-colony contact network is vital for a successful vaccine, we also completed mark/recapture experiments with UV powder. Finally, we developed a novel model to simulate vaccine transmission within a colony. I will discuss these findings and yet unresolved issues towards implementing a successful rabies vaccine.
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