We assessed the safety and efficacy of an experimental canarypox-vectored recombinant canine distemper virus (CDV) subunit vaccine in the Siberian polecat (Mustela eversmanni), a close relative of the black-footed ferret, (M. nigripes), an endangered species that is highly susceptible to the virus. Siberian polecats were randomized into six treatment groups. Recombinant canine distemper vaccine was administered s.c. at three dose levels (104.5, 105.0, and 105.5 plaque-forming units [PFU] per dose) and was administered orally by spraying the vaccine into the oropharnyx at two dose levels (105.5, 108.0 PFU per dose). The sixth group of control animals was not vaccinated. For both routes of administration, two 1-ml doses of reconstituted vaccine were delivered 4 wk apart, followed by live virus challenge 3 wk after the second vaccination. During the challenge, Synder Hill test strain CDV obtained from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, was administered i.p. Serial blood samples for CDV serology were collected immediately before vaccination and challenge, and 10, 15, and 20 days after challenge. Clinical signs and body weights were recorded up to 32 days after challenge. The survival rate in animals receiving vaccine at the highest oral dose (108.0 PFU per dose) was 83.3%. Survival rate was 50.0% in the high s.c. and 60.0% in the medium s.c. groups. All animals in the low–s.c. dose, low–oral dose, and control groups died after exposure. Vaccine dose overall (oral and s.c.) and dose in response to s.c. administration when considered alone were significant predictors of survival (P = 0.006 and P = 0.04, respectively). Among the polecats challenged with virulent virus, those that died became sick sooner than those that survived. Animals that died lost significantly more weight during the 10 days after challenge than did animals that survived (P = 0.02). Survival rates did not differ by sex, founder female status, or breeding pedigree in any of the treatment groups. Survival rates were higher in animals with increasing serum neutralization titers (P = 0.027). This study demonstrates the efficacy of oral delivery of a recombinant CDV vaccine in the Siberian polecat. Further studies are needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of vectored recombinant vaccines in highly susceptible species and especially in those species in which vaccination with modified live CDV has led to disease.
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Vol. 34 • No. 1