Scientists say they virtually eradicated rabies in foxes and domestic animals over a large area in Belgium by using an experimental vaccine. Helicopters dropped thousands of baits containing the vaccine to entice foxes to swallow it.
Foxes provide the main reservoir for the disease in Western Europe, spreading the disease to domestic animals through bites, researchers said.
The test was done in an 850-square-mile area of southern Belgium where rabies was prevalent, researchers from France and Belgium wrote in last week's issue of the British journal Nature.
The vaccine was distributed three times. About 81% of foxes inspected after the third distribution had swallowed the vaccine, a vaccinia virus that was genetically modified to bear a protein from the rabies virus.
No rabies was found in 86 foxes inspected in the seven months following the second distribution, and only one of 79 foxes inspected in the six months after the third distribution was rabid.
No rabies was found in livestock after the second distribution.