An assessment of shedding with the oral rabies virus vaccine strain SPBN GASGAS in target and non-target species
A safety requirement for live vaccines is investigating possible shedding in recipients since the presence of replication competent vaccine in secretions could result in direct and indirect horizontal transmission. This is especially relevant for oral rabies vaccine baits that are deliberately distributed into the environment. In the current study, survival of an oral rabies virus vaccine, SPBN GASGAS, was examined in excretions from different target and non-target species; red fox, raccoon dog, small Indian mongoose, raccoon, striped skunk, domestic dog, domestic cat and domestic pig. Saliva – and (pooled) fecal samples collected at different time points after oral administration of the vaccine strain were examined for the presence of viral RNA (rt-PCR). All PCR-positive and a subset of PCR-negative samples were subsequently investigated for the presence of infectious virus by isolation in cell culture (RTCIT). Up to 7 days post vaccine administration viral RNA could be detected in 50 of 758 fecal samples but no infectious virus was detected in any of the examined PCR-positive fecal samples. In contrast, RNA-fragments were detected in 248 of 1053 saliva swabs for an extended period (up to 10 days) after vaccine administration, but viable virus was only present during the first hours post vaccine administration in 38 samples. No infectious vaccine virus was isolated in saliva swabs taken 24 h or more after vaccine administration. Hence, no active shedding of the vaccine virus SPBN GASGAS after oral administration occurred and the virus isolated during the initial hours was material originally administered and not a result of virus replication within the host. Thus, potential horizontal transmission of this vaccine virus is limited to a short period directly after vaccine bait uptake. It can be concluded that the environmental risks associated with shedding after distributing vaccine baits containing SPBN GASGAS are negligible.