Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) are highly susceptible to sylvatic plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, and this disease has severely hampered efforts to restore ferrets to their historic range. A study was conducted to assess the efficacy of vaccination of black-footed ferrets against plague using a recombinant protein vaccine, designated F1-V, developed by personnel at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Seven postreproductive black-footed ferrets were immunized with the vaccine, followed by two booster immunizations on days 23 and 154; three control black-footed ferrets received a placebo. After the second immunization, antibody titers to both F1 and V antigen were found to be significantly higher in vaccinates than controls. On challenge with 7,800 colony-forming units of virulent plague by s.c. injection, the three control animals died within 3 days, but six of seven vaccinates survived with no ill effects. The seventh vaccinate died on day 8. These results indicate that black-footed ferrets can be immunized against plague induced by the s.c. route, similar to fleabite injection.
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Vol. 35 • No. 2