Analysis of seroprevalence in target wildlife during the oral rabies vaccination programme in Lithuania

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Abstract

Background: Rabies vaccination of wildlife carnivores is a powerful tool to prevent, control and eliminate rabies. The presence of neutralizing rabies antibodies in blood is considered a reliable indicator of adequate vaccination. The main purpose of the present study was to analyze the seroprevalence of specific antibodies in target populations of Lithuanian red fox (RF) and raccoon dog (RD) during the oral rabies vaccination (ORV) campaigns during the 2010–2019 period. Results: Over the ten-year period, 7,261 RF and 2,146 RD sera samples were collected post-mortem in field conditions and tested using a commercial standardized enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kit in Lithuania. In the ORV spring and autumn vaccination periods, 31.8% (20.3–43.4 95% CI – 95% confidence interval) and 31.7% (21.2–42.1 95% CI) of RF, and 34.1% (22.5–45.7 95% CI) and 34.7% (22.7–46.7 95% CI) of RD sera samples, respectively, were identified as ELISA-positive (seroconversion ≥ 0.5 EU/mL—Equivalent Units per Millilitre). The seroprevalence analysis in adult/ juvenile animal subpopulations indicated that 34.9% (27.2–42.5 95% CI) and 29.2% (20.3–37.9 95% CI) of RF, and 35.6% (25.2–46.0 95% CI) and 30.6% (20.2–40.9 95% CI) of RD sera samples, respectively, were identified as ELISA-positive (seroconversion ≥ 0.5 EU/mL). Statistically strong determinate correlations (r) between the serological results (pos.%) in RF adult/juvenile animal subpopulations (r = 0.937) and between RF and RD positive seroconvert (pos.%) sera samples during the spring vaccinations (r = 0.864) were demonstrated. In different ORV periods, 14–29% of RF and 7–25% of RD sera samples were identified as ELISA-negative (seroconversion < 0.5 EU/mL), but with low (0.125 < 0.49 EU/mL) antibody (Abs) titres. Conclusions: The 2010–2019 ORV programme has been an effective tool in both RF and RD populations in Lithuania. The rabies-free status of Lithuania was self-declared in 2015 with only three rabies cases identified in buffer zones since then. The percentage of ELISA-positive serum samples (seroconversion ≥ 0.5 EU/mL) during the different periods of vaccination was similar in RF and RD populations—32% and 34% respectively. The identified seroconversion average of 21.5% in RF and 16% in RD sera samples were officially identified as ELISA-negative (seronversion < 0.5 EU/mL), but with low 0.125 < 0.49 EU/mL Abs titres. That low, but positive seroconversion participated in the formation of populations overall immune status and can influence the interpretation of oral vaccination efficacy.

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Zienius, D., Mickutė, J., Pautienius, A., Grigas, J., Stankevičius, A., Pridotkas, G., … Jacevičienė, I. (2021). Analysis of seroprevalence in target wildlife during the oral rabies vaccination programme in Lithuania. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 63(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13028-021-00577-z

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