Rabies test developed at Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory receives national support
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015
MANHATTAN — A new test panel developed at Kansas State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has the support of a national veterinary organization in a collaborative effort to bring awareness to improve current rabies vaccination practices.
The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association is the first veterinary organization to support the diagnostic lab's rabies titer test, an antibody test that can measure an animal's immune response to the rabies virus.
In animals with a history of two or more rabies vaccinations, a titer test measuring 0.5 international units per milliliter or higher would indicate the animal may only need a booster if bitten or exposed to the rabies virus, protecting pets from receiving unnecessary vaccinations. Similarly, pets with acceptable titers for the other core vaccines could avoid repeated vaccinations.
According to Rolan Davis, a scientist in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the partnership with the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association has many advantages to improve testing methods.
"We are all like-minded individuals using science for the betterment of pet health," Davis said. "We have modified our test into a microtest so that we can do more testing with less sample from an animal. This helps drive down the price; we use smaller wells for testing so it is more economic and pet-friendly," Davis said.
In typical rabies control, if a pet was exposed to rabies and it was not currently vaccinated — within one to three years of the last vaccination — that animal was considered unvaccinated.
"If an animal is considered unvaccinated, that means either a six-month quarantine at a cost of about $4,000 to $6,000, or euthanasia — and neither one is very good for pet owners," Davis said.
While vaccinations are important in protecting animals against serious diseases, researchers at Kansas State University and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association are concerned with the dangerous side effects associated with the rabies vaccine, including vaccine-related cancer and seizures.
Susan Moore, director of the rabies lab and clinical assistant professor in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory said the support from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association is a step toward more options for veterinarians and pet owners.
"This is a collaborative effort to bring awareness to pet owners who are concerned with over-vaccinating, and it will give us more data to bring to the regulation agencies," Moore said.
According to Davis and Moore, rabies titers have been studied at Kansas State University for many years. However, until policies change, the university's veterinarians emphasize testing does not supersede state and local laws for rabies vaccinations and registering a pet.
"Rabies titer testing could eventually bridge the gap between the two parties to prove there is a reasonable level at which it is acceptable for an animal to skip vaccines and opt for a booster when it's necessary," Davis said.
For pet owners who would prefer titer tests over core vaccinations, Kansas State University offers a titer test for rabies and the three most common dog and cat core vaccine diseases. For information about the Kansas State University Rabies Laboratory, visit ksvdl.org/rabies-laboratory.