The path to rabies elimination: can we defeat this devastating and deadly disease?

CEE-ZSL Julian Huxley Memorial Lecture by Professor Sarah Cleaveland BSc BA VetMB PhD FRSE FRS, University of Glasgow.


For more than 100 years, canine rabies vaccination has been available as a tool for rabies control and elimination.  However, domestic dogs still remain a major reservoir for rabies, and the disease continues to kill tens of thousands of people every year in Africa and Asia.  This presentation will provide a historical perspective to rabies control and elimination efforts and discuss why new research has been needed to tackle canine rabies effectively on a global scale.  The presentation will focus on Africa and Asia, describing key evidence that has created awareness about the scale of the canine rabies burden, generated optimism about the feasibility of canine rabies elimination, and instilled realism as to the challenges of reaching elimination targets.  Finally, the presentation will draw out broader insights in relation to the potential benefits and challenges of One Health approaches to disease control.

Professor Sarah Cleaveland is a veterinary epidemiologist based at the University of Glasgow, UK, who leads an inter-disciplinary research programme in Africa investigating zoonotic and livestock diseases.  Her PhD research focused on rabies in the Serengeti, Tanzania, investigating multi-host reservoir dynamics, burden of disease and strategies for control and elimination.  While still engaged with operational rabies research and policy, her research in Tanzania now addresses several other disease problems affecting human, animal and ecosystem health, including foot-and-mouth disease, malignant catarrhal fever, brucellosis, leptospirosis and Rift Valley Fever.  Professor Cleaveland is involved in several graduate training programmes and capacity-strengthening initiatives with African partner institutions.

Professor Cleaveland was a founding director of the Alliance for Rabies Control.  In 2014 she was awarded an OBE for services to veterinary epidemiology and in 2016 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. 

The Julian Huxley Memorial Lecture is an annual event organised jointly by the Centre for Ecology and Evolution, based at UCL, and the Zoological Society of London.  The lecture is given by leading scientists in ecology, evolution and the environment and aims to celebrate research collaborations between CEE and ZSL.

Attending this event

  • This is free to attend, open to all, and booking is not required.

  • Venue: A.V. Hill Lecture Theatre, Medical Sciences Building, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT.  See map

  • Seats are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

  • For more information visit

  • For all enquiries contact Chris Langridge at:

All images are credited to Sarah Cleaveland

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