As part of an ongoing restoration program in Colorado, USA, we evaluated adverse reactions and seroconversion in captive Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) after vaccination with a recombinant F1-V fusion protein vaccine against Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague. Ten adult female lynx received the F1-V vaccine; 10 source- and age-matched lynx remained unvaccinated as controls. All of the vaccinated and control lynx remained apparently healthy throughout the confinement period. We observed no evidence of injection site or systemic reactions to the F1-V vaccine. Among vaccinated lynx, differences in log10 reciprocal antibody titers measured in sera collected before and after vaccination (two doses) ranged from 1.2 to 5.2 for anti-F1 antibodies and from 0.6 to 5.2 for anti-V antibodies; titers in unvaccinated lynx did not change appreciably over the course of confinement prior to release, and thus differences in anti-F1 (P=0.003) and anti-V (P=0.0005) titers were greater among vaccinated lynx than among controls. Although our findings suggest that the F1-V fusion protein vaccine evaluated here is likely to stimulate antibody responses that may help protect Canada lynx from plague, we observed no apparent differences in survival between vaccinated and unvaccinated subject animals. Retrospectively, 22 of 50 (44%; 95% confidence interval 29–59%) unvaccinated lynx captured or recaptured in Colorado during 2000–08 had passive hemagglutination antibody titers >1:16, consistent with exposure to Y. pestis; paired pre- and postrelease titers available for eight of these animals showed titer increases similar in magnitude to those seen in response to vaccination, suggesting at least some lynx may naturally acquire immunity to plague in Colorado habitats.
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Vol. 47 • No. 4