On 28th July 2022 researchers from the University of Oxford reported positive results from a Phase I clinical trial of a newly developed single shot rabies vaccine. This emerges in a field of more costly multiple-dose vaccines. Funding for the trial comes from the UK Medical Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.  

The trial (RAB001) took place at university facilities. 12 volunteers took part: 3 received a low dose, 3 a medium dose, and 6 received a high dose of the shot. The researchers observed “strong immune responses”. Of these medium and high dose volunteers, quantities of the rabies neutralising antibodies exceeded the WHO threshold within two months. Furthermore, beyond the predicted vaccine side effects there were no serious safety issues raised.  

The vaccine is a simian adenovirus-vectored candidate based on the ChAdOx2 vector. This is not dissimilar to the techniques used in the recent Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. The Phase Ib/II trial is ongoing in Tanzania, with results expected later in 2022.  

Professor Sandy Douglas, Chief Investigator of the trial at the Jenner Institute stated: 

“We’re absolutely delighted with these early results – the vaccine has performed even better than we had expected. The problems with existing rabies vaccines are that they are expensive and require multiple doses.” 

Additionally, he is hopeful that expanding the trials would demonstrate the vaccine’s potential to be affordable and effective.  

Dr Daniel Jenkin, Lead Clinical Research Fellow for the trial, commented on the “modern vaccine technology” that could become a key player in the prevention of “tens of thousands of rabies deaths” each year.  

According to the WHO, rabies infection costs the US $8.6 billion each year, in addition to the human cost. Thus the WHO is leading “United Against Rabies” to push for no human deaths from “dog-mediated rabies” by 2030. Perhaps this vaccine is a vital, cost-efficient step in that direction.  

To participate in the discussion of veterinary science at the World Vaccine Congress in Europe this year, buy your tickets here.