As a possible strategy to protect whooping cranes (Grus americana) from fatal eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) viral infection, studies were conducted to determine the immune response of this species and sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) to a formalin-inactivated EEE viral vaccine. Viral-specific neutralizing antibody was elicited in both species after intramuscular (IM) vaccination. Subcutaneous and intravenous routes of vaccination failed to elicit detectable antibody in sandhill cranes. Among the IM vaccinated cranes, the immune response was characterized by nondetectable or low antibody titers that waned rapidly following primary exposure to the vaccine. However, one or more booster doses consistently elicited detectable antibody and/or increased antibody titers in the whooping cranes. In contrast, cranes with pre-existing EEE viral antibody, apparently induced by natural infection, exhibited a rapid increase and sustained high-antibody titers. Even though EEE virus vaccine induced neutralizing antibody and produced no adverse side effects, further studies will be required to determine the protective efficacy of the antibody.
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Vol. 23 • No. 4