Raccoons and skunks are major rabies reservoirs in North America. Oral vaccination is one method to consider for disease control in these carnivores. Under field conditions in the USA, only one oral rabies vaccine has been used. It is efficacious in wildlife such as raccoons (Procyon lotor), coyotes (Canis latrans), and foxes (Vulpes vulpes) but not in skunks (Mephitis mephitis). The objectives of this study were to evaluate an attenuated SAG-2 rabies virus vaccine for safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy by the oral route in skunks and raccoons. Two of five skunks and three of five raccoons developed virus neutralizing antibodies (VNA) by day 14 following oral administration of SAG-2 vaccine. All animals remained healthy. Upon challenge, naive controls succumbed to rabies. Among vaccinated animals, four of five skunks and all five raccoons had VNA on day 7 post-challenge and all survived. Given these results, SAG-2 is a promising candidate vaccine that may satisfy both safety and efficacy concerns for oral rabies immunization of major North American rabies reservoirs.
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Vol. 38 • No. 2