In a move that can strengthen India’s resolve to eliminate human rabies deaths transmitted by dogs by 2030, Ahmedabad-based Cadila Pharmaceuticals is working on rabies vaccines that are effective with fewer doses than the current five-dose regime. The company has recently launched the world’s first three-dose rabies vaccine and is working on developing a single-dose vaccine, Dr Manjul Joshipura, senior vice-president, innovations and new products, Cadila says.

While conventional rabies vaccines are administered five times over a period of 28 days, Cadila’s vaccine dosage schedule is completed within a week (on day zero, third day and seventh day), he explains.

It is estimated that rabies claims around 59,000 deaths globally annually, a third of which, or around 20,000, occur in India alone. Official figures indicate in 2022 (till July 22nd), India had registered 14.5 lakh dog bite cases. The number of dog bites during the 2019-2022 July period was over 1.5 crore. As per the Livestock Census conducted in 2019, India had 1.53 crore stray dogs.

Rabies vaccines are produced mainly by the government at pre-fixed rates and supplied free under the National Rabies Control Programme (NRCP) for the prevention and control of rabies. The World Health Organisation classifies rabies as one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) that predominantly affects poor and vulnerable populations who live in remote rural locations.

“The key issue is not the loss of lives, but the fact that almost all rabies deaths can be prevented through vaccination. The challenge is awareness and failure to complete the lengthy vaccine regimen, which involves multiple visits to the hospital over several weeks. At Cadila Pharmaceuticals, we have been focusing on preventing rabies deaths, and have recently launched ThRabis, the world’s first three-dose rabies vaccine. The recombinant vaccine has a simpler regime than other vaccines, and is proving to be a game-changer by helping save many lives,” Joshipura says.

He says the company’s rabies vaccine is based on the Virus-Like Particle (VLP) technology. Cadila is also developing vaccines for HPV and Chickenpox infections using the same VLP technology platform. “We have already launched an influenza vaccine based on the VLP platform,” he says.

The vaccines are being developed by CPL Biologicals, the biological arm of Cadila and marketed through Cadila Pharmaceuticals.

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