Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine

Role of sterilisation in rabies control

What is the role of surgical sterilisation in a rabies control program, and why does it matter? 

Rabies is the most deadly of all zoonotic diseases as once symptoms occur it is almost invariably fatal.  It has been eradicated from most developed countries but still causes an estimated 60,000 human deaths per year worldwide.  More than 99% of human cases are acquired from dog bites, and therefore controlling the disease in dogs is key to reducing the burden of the disease in humans.  The management of free-roaming dog populations and the control of rabies are integrally linked.  Many organisations carrying out rabies control have wider objectives in improved animal health and welfare.  Rabies control using canine vaccination has been well documented, however in practice many organisations carrying out these programs also perform sterilisation.  It is argued that sterilisation improves the health and longevity of dogs, thereby reducing population turnover and making vaccination coverage easier to maintain, however direct evidence for the effect of sterilisation on rabies control is lacking. 

This PhD has 4 main stages:

  1. A systematic review of the existing evidence base for the role of surgical sterilisation in rabies control programs. This will be done by comparing the health and welfare outcomes in programs using vaccination only with those using vaccination and sterilisation, and using a realist evaluation to identify key components associated with successful project outcomes (bearing in mind that exact definitions of success will vary across projects, locations and cultures) and components that have uncertainty around their impact. 
  2. Conduct a prioritisation exercise in order to identify key questions/issues that are important in determining the success or otherwise of dog population management and rabies control programs.
  3. Identify which of these questions can be answered using the data currently being collected by a number of diverse projects, and see if they have the same outcomes in different contexts. 
  4. Identify what data is needed to be collected in order to be able to answer the other questions identified by the prioritisation exercise, as well as any barriers to this data collection.

The overall aim is to develop evidence-based principles that will facilitate the planning, implementation and evaluation of dog population management and rabies control programs.

To find out more about the project please contact Abi Collinson: abigail.collinson@nottingham.ac.uk

The PhD is supervised by Dr Jenny Stavisky, Dr Rachel Dean, Dr Marnie Brennan and Prof Malcolm Bennett.
The project is co-funded by Dogs Trust. 

Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine

School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

Tel: +44 (0) 115 951 6576
Fax: +44 (0) 115 951 6415
Email: CEVM@nottingham.ac.uk