Elephants can be Protected against Rabies

Rabies is a deadly disease of most warm-blooded animals
with no treatment. Prophylactic vaccine schedule for
domestic animals are in vogue. Often veterinarians are
confronted with the problem of prophylactic vaccination
schedule for elephants especially during rabies out break.
The dose is fixed for each taxonomical species after
finding out the titre after a series of vaccinations.
Naturally, this has not been done for most of the zoo
animals.

For zoo animals, rabies is not very important either since
these animals are usually protected from the rabid animals
in their safe enclosures. Recently an out break of rabies in
a zoo gave opportunity for the scientists to test rabies
vaccine in exotic animals and the scientists of University of
Florida has come out with a finding. Their findings appear
to be interesting and very useful for veterinarians in
elephant range countries where rabies is very common in
animals. Elephant rabies is also not uncommon in these
countries.

A trial was conducted to evaluate the humoral immune
response of Asian elephants to a primary IM vaccination of
either 1 or 2 doses of a commercially available inactivated
rabies virus vaccine. Sixteen captive Asian elephants were
selected with no known prior rabies vaccination history.

They were divided into two groups of 8 each. Group 1 was
received 1 dose of vaccine and the group 2 was received
2 doses of vaccine 9 days apart. All elephants were
injected with one or two 4-ml injections of a monovalent
inactivated rabies virus vaccine. Blood samples were
collected prior to injection and then on days 9,35,112, and
344. Further all elephants were given booster dose after
40 days after the booster dose was give i.e. at day 384.
Serum was tested using virus neutralization test using
rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test.

Results revealed very interesting data. All the elephants
were seronegative prior to vaccination. After vaccination
both groups showed very encouraging results, indicating
that Asian elephants develop humoral immune response
after vaccination with a commercially available monovalent
inactivates rabies vaccine. This suggests that a rabies
vaccination programme can be instituted to elephants that
are likely to come in contact with rabid dogs, as is the case
in most elephant range countries. A 2-dose series of
rabies virus vaccine should provide an adequate antibody
response in elephants, and an annual booster would
maintain the antibody response in this species.
                                                                                            
                                                                     
November 2006
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