Science: Inside the global campaign to get rid of rabies

PULLMAN, Wash. – Rabies vaccine work by professors Thumbi Mwangi and Felix Lankester to address the problem of infectious diseases crossing borders in Kenya, Tanzania and throughout Africa is part of a comprehensive article in the recent issue of Science magazine.

Specific to rabies, achieving the high vaccination coverage required for elimination in one country will be unsuccessful if unvaccinated dogs enter from villages in a neighboring country.

“The day we have fully eliminated rabies in Kenya, we will start to get incursions” from neighboring countries, said Mwangi, a veterinary epidemiologist at Washington State University and an adviser to Kenya’s Zoonotic Disease Unit.

Ultimately, Africa will need to develop the kind of regional cooperation that has worked well in Latin America, the article states – not only to eliminate rabies but also to establish policies that can be broadly applied to other transboundary diseases.

In addition, Lankester’s research findings that the rabies vaccine can be kept at warmer temperatures for longer than previously thought are part of the Science article. This holds the potential for remote communities to keep vaccines on hand and immunize their dogs themselves.

“It could be transformative,” said Lankester, director of the Serengeti Health Initiative.

Both professors are part of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health at WSU. Find the Science article at