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Serum antibody titers following routine rabies vaccination in African elephants

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  • 1 Department of Veterinary Services, Disney's Animal Kingdom, PO Box 10,000, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32820.
  • | 2 Animal Population Health Institute, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate serum antibody titers in captive African elephants (Loxodonta africana) following routine vaccination with a commercially available, inactivated rabies vaccine.

Design—Seroepidemiologic study.

Animals—14 captive African elephants from a single herd.

Procedures—Elephants were vaccinated as part of a routine preventive health program. Initially, elephants were vaccinated annually (2 mL, IM), and blood was collected every 4 or 6 months for measurement of rabies virus–neutralizing antibody titer by means of the rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test. Individual elephants were later switched to an intermittent vaccination schedule to allow duration of the antibody response to be determined.

Results—All elephants had detectable antibody responses following rabies vaccination, although there was great variability among individual animals in regard to antibody titers, and antibody titers could be detected as long as 24 months after vaccine administration. Young animals were found to develop an antibody titer following administration of a single dose of the rabies vaccine. Age and time since vaccination had significant effects on measured antibody titers.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that African elephants developed detectable antibody titers in response to inoculation with a standard large animal dose of a commercially available, inactivated rabies vaccine. The persistence of detectable antibody titers in some animals suggested that vaccination could be performed less frequently than once a year if antibody titers were routinely monitored.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate serum antibody titers in captive African elephants (Loxodonta africana) following routine vaccination with a commercially available, inactivated rabies vaccine.

Design—Seroepidemiologic study.

Animals—14 captive African elephants from a single herd.

Procedures—Elephants were vaccinated as part of a routine preventive health program. Initially, elephants were vaccinated annually (2 mL, IM), and blood was collected every 4 or 6 months for measurement of rabies virus–neutralizing antibody titer by means of the rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test. Individual elephants were later switched to an intermittent vaccination schedule to allow duration of the antibody response to be determined.

Results—All elephants had detectable antibody responses following rabies vaccination, although there was great variability among individual animals in regard to antibody titers, and antibody titers could be detected as long as 24 months after vaccine administration. Young animals were found to develop an antibody titer following administration of a single dose of the rabies vaccine. Age and time since vaccination had significant effects on measured antibody titers.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that African elephants developed detectable antibody titers in response to inoculation with a standard large animal dose of a commercially available, inactivated rabies vaccine. The persistence of detectable antibody titers in some animals suggested that vaccination could be performed less frequently than once a year if antibody titers were routinely monitored.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Miller's present address is Palm Beach Zoo, 1301 Summit Blvd, West Palm Beach, FL 33405.

Supported by Disney's Animal Programs.

Address correspondence to Dr. Miller (mmiller@palmbeachzoo.org).