Rabies virus kills a shocking 59,000 people each year, many of them children. Some victims, especially children, don't realize they've been exposed until it is too late. For others, the intense rabies treatment regimen is out of the question: treatment is not widely available and the average $3,800 expense poses unthinkable economic burden for most people around the world. Rabies vaccines, rather than treatments, are much more affordable and easier to administer. But those vaccines also come with a massive downside: "Rabies vaccines don’t provide lifelong protection. You have to get your pets boosted every year to three years," says La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) Professor Erica Ollmann Saphire, PhD. "Right now, rabies vaccines for humans and domestic animals are made from killed virus. But this inactivation process can cause the molecules to become misshapen—so these vaccines aren’t showing the right form to the immune system. If we made a better shaped, better structured vaccine, would immunity last longer?"
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