Rabies remains a major public health issue worldwide, especially in developing countries where access to medical care can represent a real challenge. While there is still no cure for rabies, it is a vaccine-preventable disease with pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis regimens approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, many rabies-exposed individuals have limited access to vaccines and virus-neutralizing antibodies approved for post-exposure prophylaxis. Unfortunately, any delay in the administration of these reagents can have lethal consequences. This highlights the need to develop cost-effective immunological reagents with a greater window of efficacy. Live-attenuated vaccine strains of rabies virus presents a potential treatment in filling this gap. We show here that immunization with live-attenuated vaccines provide long-lasting rabies immunity, superior to the protection induced by inactivated vaccines. In the absence of an immunostimulatory adjuvant, vaccination with multiple doses of inactivated rabies virus induces a type-2 immune response. This type of immunity is highly effective at inducing neutralizing antibody but has limited efficacy in clearing the virus from central nervous system (CNS) tissues. In contrast, a single infection with live-attenuated rabies vaccine safely drives a type-1 immune response, associated with both the production of a neutralizing antibody and the clearance of wild-type rabies virus from CNS tissues. These results indicate that live-attenuated rabies strains have the potential to be more effective in post-exposure prophylaxis than conventional inactivated vaccines.
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