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A case of low success of blind vaccination campaigns against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease on survival of adult European wild rabbits

AutorRouco, Carlos ; Moreno, Sacramento, Santoro, Simone
Palabras claveMorality
Disease control
Wildlife management
Oryctolagus cuniculus
Fecha de publicación2016
CitaciónPreventive Veterinary Medicine 133: 108- 113 (2016)
ResumenVaccination campaigns against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) are commonly used in translocation programs conducted for the purpose of recovering wild European rabbit populations in Iberian Mediterranean ecosystems. In most cases rabbits are vaccinated ‘blind’ (i.e. without assessing their prior immunological status) for economic and logistic reasons. However, there is conflicting evidence on the effectiveness of such an approach. We tested whether blind vaccination against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease improved rabbit survival in a rabbit translocation program where wild rabbits were kept in semi-natural conditions in three enclosures. We conducted nine capture sessions over two years (2008–2010) and used the information collected to compare the survival of vaccinated (n = 511) versus unvaccinated (n = 161) adult wild rabbits using capture-mark-recapture analysis. Average monthly survival was no different for vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals, both in the period between release and first capture (short-term) and after the first capture onward (long-term). Rabbit survival was lower in the short term than in the long term regardless of whether rabbits were vaccinated or not. Lower survival in the short-term could be due to the stress induced by the translocation process itself (e.g. handling stress). However, we did not find any overall effect of vaccination on survival which could be explained by two non-exclusive reasons. First, interference of the vaccine with the natural antibodies in the donor population. Due to donor populations have high density of rabbits with, likely, high prevalence of antibodies as a result of previous natural exposure to these diseases. Second, the lack of severe outbreaks during the study period. Based on our findings we argue that blind vaccination of adult rabbits in translocation programs may be often mostly ineffective and unnecessarily costly. In particular, since outbreaks are hard to predict and vaccination of rabbits with natural antibodies is ineffective, it is crucial to assess the immunological status of the donor population before translocating adult rabbits.
Identificadoresdoi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2016.09.013
issn: 0167-5877
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