Vaccination of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) against phocid distemper with two different inactivated canine distemper virus (CDV) vaccines.
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Two inactivated canine distemper virus (CDV) vaccines--an adjuvanted whole inactivated virus and a subunit ISCOM preparation--were tested for their ability to induce protective immunity in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) against phocid distemper, a disease that recently killed greater than 17,000 harbour seals in the North and Baltic seas, and was shown to be caused by infection with a newly discovered morbillivirus, which is antigenically closely related to CDV. Four CDV seronegative harbour seals were vaccinated three times with the whole-virus vaccine, two with the ISCOM subunit vaccine and two were sham-vaccinated with an antigen-free preparation. Ten days after the last vaccination, when all six vaccinated animals had developed CDV neutralizing antibody titres ranging from 300 to 3000, all eight animals were challenged by the oculonasal and the peritoneal routes, with an organ suspension from dead seals. None of the six vaccinated animals developed clinical signs. The two sham-vaccinated seals died on days 14 and 18, respectively, after having shown a body temperature rise, respiratory symptoms and weight loss. In organs from both dead animals morbillivirus antigen was demonstrated with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and an immunofluorescence assay. One of these two animals had developed a low titre of CDV-specific antibodies just before death. These data clearly indicate that seals can be protected from fatal challenge with the phocid distemper virus (PDV), by vaccination with certain inactivated CDV vaccines. They also reconfirm that infection with PDV should be considered the primary cause of the recent epizootic in seals.
- phocid distemper
- distemper virus
- sham-vaccinated seals
- seal sanctuary
- harbour seals