Dr. Sarah Cleaveland, a researcher at the University of Glasgow, has helped to secure a $10 million grant from the Gates’ Foundation to fund the fight against rabies in developing countries.
Billionaire Bill Gates awarded the $9,996,674 grant through the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation.
This is the first time their foundation has supported an initiative that will protect humans via the protection of animals.
The money will go towards eradicating human and canine rabies in three developing regions of the world: Tanzania, Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa and the Visayas archipelago of the Philippines. This will be accomplished by vaccinating domestic dogs.
The grant was awarded to the World Health Organisation’s Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD), which has collaborated with The Alliance for Rabies Control and certain specialist rabies laboratories on this project.
Dr. Sarah Cleaveland holds a joint position with the Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow.
She will work in conjunction with the World Health Organisation as an important member of their scientific advisory team.
The pioneering research of Dr. Cleaveland and her colleagues at the University played a critical role in attaining the grant for the programme.
Dr. Cleaveland explained: “While we weren’t the only people involved, we were certainly very important members of that team.”
“We have probably got the most comprehensive set of information for any of the countries in the project.”
Despite being a preventable disease, rabies kills approximately 55,000 people every year. Dr. Cleaveland believes this is due to the gap in communication between both animal and human health research organisations.
She explained the problems faced: “The difficulty of rabies and many of the other zoonotic diseases is that the responsibility for controlling it in the animal is with the veterinary services, but often the benefits are public health benefits, and those two ministries operate separately.
“The sustainability of the programme can be established through linking human and animal health.”
The University of Glasgow is currently working towards improving the cooperation between human and animal health research through their organisation, the Boyd Orr Centre.
The centre is a cross-faculty organisation designed to synthesize the expertise and activities of a group of researchers interested in both the clinical and ecological health of populations and ecosystems.
Professor Paul Hagan, Dean of the faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, further elaborated on the aim of the Boyd Orr Centre researchers.
He described their work as: “Trying to improve our understanding of animal and human health and of infectious agents that can cross the species barriers.”