Sampson here with some breaking scientific news: the rabies vaccine, found to be extremely effective at preventing this fatal disease in dogs, is now showing significant positive results on overall canine health and a strong association with a decrease in death from all causes. So, despite the reduced prevalence of rabies in the U.S., there other positive benefits to your pets with this vaccination.
As vaccinations in general have become controversial, the unexpected finding of this new research holds exciting implications for future design of rabies control programs as well as provide a model to study this same effect in humans.
Dr. Darryn Knobel, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, recently published his research results in the journal Vaccine.
The study showed that rabies vaccinations reduced the risk of death from any cause by 56 percent (!!!) in dogs 0 to 3 months of age. While all dogs had decreased mortality, the percentage decrease was highest in young dogs, with the effect diminishing over time.
Dr. Knobel's study area incorporated an impoverished region of South Africa, where infectious diseases, including rabies, are an ever-present threat to both humans and dogs. The research team concluded that the decrease in mortality couldn't be explained by a reduction in deaths due to rabies alone.
"This led us to propose that rabies vaccine may have a non-specific protective effect in dogs, perhaps through boosting the immune system to provide enhanced defense against other unrelated diseases," said Dr. Knobel. "A similar phenomenon has been observed in children, although it remains to be substantiated through more definitive trials."
Understanding the mechanisms responsible for the enhanced immunity could have broad implications not only for veterinary medicine but also for human medicine. Dr. Knobel hopes to continue his studies in collaboration with veterinary immunologists and infectious disease specialists.
Although the incidence of Americans contracting rabies is practically nonexistent (1-3 cases reported annually and typically contracted outside of the U.S. and its territories, while dogs with rabies were reported 420 times and cats 272 in 2015) rabies remains a global health threat with tens of thousands of human deaths every year, mostly in Asia and Africa. Globally, dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths (in the U.S. it is from bats), so rabies control programs are essential to both canine and human health.
While great progress has been made in rabies prevention and treatment since 1983, the World Health Organization continues to include rabies on its neglected tropical disease roadmap. As a zoonotic disease (spreads from animals to people), rabies requires close cross-sectional coordination at the national regional and global levels. Raising awareness about rabies is critical to successful disease management programs.
In conclusion, I would recommend you vaccinate your pets against rabies. By the way, I am a very handsome Chocolate Lab looking for a new family. I am only 3 ½ years young and love spending time with loving affectionate people and dogs, particularly playful ones like me. I am responding great in the Basic Obedience training here at Second Chance and ready to teach you some new tricks – come meet me today!