In Latin America, the common vampire bat is a primary source of the rabies virus. For decades, control methods involved culling these bats and even non-target bat species. Studies show this is not an effective prevention strategy as rabies continues to spread and emerge in new areas. Vaccination of vampire bats is a potential alternative. But first, an assessment of effective methods for vaccine delivery is needed. Researchers will evaluate transfer rates within vampire colonies by applying a topical placebo-rabies vaccine that contains a biomarker to selected groups of vampire bats. As these animals are highly social, the topical treatment will be transferred throughout the bat colony via ingestion during grooming and other social behaviors. Success will be measured by direct observation of the biomarker in post-treatment samples, allowing researchers to estimate the proportion of the colony treated in a single effort. Findings will inform the vaccination strategies in the field to help minimize rabies outbreaks and spread by bats as well as protect bat species from culling.
Grant amount awarded
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Elsa M. Cárdenas Canales, DVM