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App Can Help Eradicate Rabies in India

A new vaccine study provides clues on how to wipe out rabies in free-roaming dogs.

Rabies could be eradicated from street dogs in India with the help of a new smartphone app, a new study published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases declares.

Researchers are using the app to track free-roaming dogs that have been vaccinated against rabies.

According to the study’s abstract:

“Over 20,000 people die from rabies each year in India. At least 95 % of people contract rabies from an infected dog. Annual vaccination of over 70 % of the dog population has eliminated both canine and human rabies in many countries. Despite having the highest burden of rabies in the world, there have been very few studies, which have reported the successful, large-scale vaccination of dogs in India. Furthermore, many Indian canine rabies vaccination programs have not achieved high vaccine coverage.”

Monitoring them in this way has enabled vets to vaccinate 70 percent of the dog population in the City of Ranchi, which is the threshold needed to minimize the risk that the disease is passed to people.

Adopting the approach more widely could help to eliminate rabies from people and animals, the researchers say.

Teams vaccinated more than 6,000 dogs in 18 districts of the city of Ranchi, India. They surveyed the number of marked, vaccinated and unmarked, unvaccinated dogs to monitor the proportion of animals that had received the vaccine.

A smartphone app — called the Mission Rabies app — was developed for researchers to instantly upload information about the animals vaccinated, including their exact location.

In areas where coverage fell below 70 percent, catching teams were redeployed to vaccinate more dogs until the target was achieved.

The study was led by Mission Rabies, in collaboration with researchers from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Rabies remains a global problem that leads to the suffering and premature deaths of over 50,000 people and many times more dogs each year.

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The disease has been eliminated from many countries through mass vaccination of the dog population. However, rabies elimination remains challenging in countries where the majority of dogs are allowed to roam freely.

Previous research has shown that vaccinating just 70 percent of the dog population is enough to cut the risk of rabies infections in people.

"We have shown that mobile technology can help to monitor the efforts of large scale vaccination of free roaming dogs in real time,” said Dr .Richard Mellanby, a Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. “This allows us to identify areas where vaccination needs to be increased to meet the 70-percent threshold and cut the risk of the disease being passed to people."

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