Brucellosis is endemic in free-ranging elk (Cervus elaphus) and bison (Bison bison) in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA; USA). It is possible that an oral brucellosis vaccine could be developed and disseminated in the GYA to reduce disease transmission. Should this occur, non-target species other than elk and bison may come in contact with the vaccine resulting in morbidity or mortality. To assess biosafety, bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis; n=10), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana; n=9), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus; n=11), moose (Alces alces shirasi; n=10), and coyotes (Canis latrans; n=24) were given a single oral dose of at least 1.0×1010 colony-forming units of Brucella abortus strain RB51 vaccine (RB51). Animals were randomly divided into vaccinated and control groups. Ungulates were captured, blood sampled, and swabs taken from the nares, rectum, and vagina for bacterial culture on day 0, 42, and 84 post-inoculation (PI). On day 42, the vaccinated group became a control group and vice versa in a crossover design. Blood and swab samples were taken from coyotes on days 0, 14, 28, and 42 PI. There was no crossover for the coyote study. Two coyotes from each group were also euthanized and cultured for RB51 on days 42, 84, 168, and 336 PI. Blood samples were analyzed for hematologic changes and antibodies to RB51 using a modified dot-blot assay. No morbidity or mortality as a result of vaccination was observed in any animal. There were no differences in hematologic parameters at any time for ungulate species; vaccinated coyotes had higher hematocrit, hemoglobin, and eosinophil counts (P≤0.006). All individuals, except some moose, seroconverted to RB51. Strain RB51 was cultured from oropharyngeal lymph nodes from one coyote 42 days PI and from a moose 117 days PI. This study suggested that a single oral dose of RB51 was safe in these species.
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Vol. 38 • No. 3