Oral vaccination of wildlife against rabies: Differences among host species in vaccine uptake efficiency
Oral vaccination using attenuated and recombinant rabies vaccines has been proven a powerful tool to combat rabies in wildlife. However, clear differences have been observed in vaccine titers needed to induce a protective immune response against rabies after oral vaccination in different reservoir species. The mechanisms contributing to the observed resistance against oral rabies vaccination in some species are not completely understood. Hence, the immunogenicity of the vaccine virus strain, SPBN GASGAS, was investigated in a species considered to be susceptible to oral rabies vaccination (red fox) and a species refractory to this route of administration (striped skunk). Additionally, the dissemination of the vaccine virus in the oral cavity was analyzed for these two species. It was shown that the palatine tonsils play a critical role in vaccine virus uptake. Main differences could be observed in palatine tonsil infection between both species, revealing a locally restricted dissemination of infected cells in foxes. The absence of virus infected cells in palatine tonsils of skunks suggests a less efficient uptake of or infection by vaccine virus which may lead to a reduced response to oral vaccination. Understanding the mechanisms of oral resistance to rabies virus vaccine absorption and primary replication may lead to the development of novel strategies to enhance vaccine efficacy in problematic species like the striped skunk.