Responsiveness of various reservoir species to oral rabies vaccination correlates with differences in vaccine uptake of mucosa associated lymphoid tissues
Oral rabies vaccination (ORV) is highly effective in foxes and raccoon dogs, whereas for unknown reasons the efficacy of ORV in other reservoir species is less pronounced. To investigate possible variations in species-specific cell tropism and local replication of vaccine virus, different reservoir species including foxes, raccoon dogs, raccoons, mongooses, dogs and skunks were orally immunised with a highly attenuated, high-titred GFP-expressing rabies virus (RABV). Immunofluorescence and RT-qPCR screenings revealed clear differences among species suggesting host specific limitations to ORV. While for responsive species the palatine tonsils (tonsilla palatina) were identified as a main site of virus replication, less virus dissemination was observed in the tonsils of rather refractory species. While our comparison of vaccine virus tropism emphasizes the important role that the tonsilla palatina plays in eliciting an immune response to ORV, our data also indicate that other lymphoid tissues may have a more important role than originally anticipated. Overall, these data support a model in which the susceptibility to oral live RABV vaccine infection of lymphatic tissue is a major determinant in vaccination efficacy. The present results may help to direct future research for improving vaccine uptake and efficacy of oral rabies vaccines under field conditions.