Rabies Virus Antibodies from Oral Vaccination as a Correlate of Protection against Lethal Infection in Wildlife
Both cell-mediated and humoral immune effectors are important in combating rabies infection, although the humoral response receives greater attention regarding rabies prevention. The principle of preventive vaccination has been adopted for strategies of oral rabies vaccination (ORV) of wildlife reservoir populations for decades to control circulation of rabies virus in free-ranging hosts. There remains much debate about the levels of rabies antibodies (and the assays to measure them) that confer resistance to rabies virus. In this paper, data from published literature and our own unpublished animal studies on the induction of rabies binding and neutralizing antibodies following oral immunization of animals with live attenuated or recombinant rabies vaccines, are examined as correlates of protection against lethal rabies infection in captive challenge settings. Analysis of our studies suggests that, though serum neutralization test results are expected to reflect in vivo protection, the blocking enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) result at Day 28 was a better predictor of survival. ELISA kits may have an advantage of greater precision and ability to compare results among different studies and laboratories based on the inherent standardization of the kit format. This paper examines current knowledge and study findings to guide meaningful interpretation of serology results in oral baiting monitoring.