Double vaccine against rabies and yellow fever in development


KU Leuven is leading a consortium of research institutes in the development of a cheap and accessible vaccine that will cover both rabies and yellow fever

No needles

To develop a cheap, efficient, temperature-stable and easy-to-produce vaccine against both rabies and yellow fever by 2020: That is the goal of the international RABYD-VAX consortium, which is led by the University of Leuven (KU Leuven).

Various drawbacks hinder the efficient distribution of current vaccines against rabies and yellow fever. The researchers are working on a new vaccine with an innovative technology called PLLAV, developed at KU Leuven.

“The new vaccine can be included in routine childhood vaccinations and administered without a needle,” explained professor Johan Neyts, who co-ordinates the RABYD-VAX consortium.

Rabies, usually transmitted through dog bites, claims about 59,000 lives each year worldwide. “Most patients, of whom about half are children, live in rural areas in Africa and Asia,” said Neyts. “Many people are not protected because the vaccines are expensive and need to be transported and stored at cool temperatures.”

The mosquito-borne virus yellow fever causes about 30,000 deaths per year. According to Neyts, current production techniques do not yield enough doses of the vaccine. “There is a real danger that major outbreaks of yellow fever will become uncontrollable,” he said, pointing to epidemics last year in the Congo and Angola. “The World Health Organisation had to use its entire emergency stock to vaccinate the six million people in the Angolan capital Luanda alone.”

The RABYD-VAX consortium, which also includes Belgium’s Scientific Institute for Public Health, has received a €4.1 million grant from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme for the development of the vaccine.

Photo: A young woman is vaccinated against yellow fever at a hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo
© WHO/E. Soteras Jalil

University of Leuven

Established almost six centuries ago, the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) is one of the oldest universities in the Low Countries. International rankings consistently place it among the best universities in Europe.
Papal founding - It was founded as a Catholic university by Pope Martin V in 1425.
Bright minds - Over the centuries, it attracted famous scholars like Justus Lipsius, Andreas Vesalius, Desiderius Erasmus and Gerard Mercator.
Micro and nano - KU Leuven is home to the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (imec), a world-class research centre in micro- and nanoelectronics.
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