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WHO Collaborating Centre

for Modelling, Evolution and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases

Rabies virus (a lyssavirus) is 100% deadly unless pre- or post-exposure prophylactic vaccination with attenuated virus or passive immune globulin is administered.  However, is the virus is sufficiently antigenically variable that it may affect vaccine efficacy. Antigenic cartography was used to generate 3-dimensional visual maps of antigenic relationships of 25 lyssaviruses, and showed that although the current rabies vaccine is effective against the majority of viruses, there is a loss of protection against a number of antigenically distant strains. With knowledge of the alarming clinical manifestations and extremely high mortality rates caused by lyssaviruses, along with increasing globalization and the altered interface between humans and wildlife, a better understanding of the antigenic as well as genetic relatedness among lyssaviruses is vital.