Three methods for delivering a live attenuated canine distemper virus (CDV) vaccine to domestic cats (Felis catus) were investigated, as models for developing vaccination protocols for tigers (Panthera tigris). Twenty domestic cats were randomly divided into four treatment groups: saline injection (negative controls); and oral, intranasal, and subcutaneous vaccinates. Cats were injected with saline or a CDV vaccine (Nobivac DP, Merck) at wk 0 and 4. Blood and nasal swabs were collected at wk 0 (prior to the initial vaccination) and weekly thereafter for 9 wk. Urine samples were collected on wk 1 to 9 after initial vaccination. Forty-nine weeks following the initial vaccination series, three cats from the subcutaneous group and three cats from the intranasal group were revaccinated. Blood was collected immediately prior, and 7 and 21 days subsequent to revaccination. Nasal swabs and urine samples were collected from each cat prior to wk 49 revaccination and daily for 7 days thereafter. Nasal swabs and urine were analyzed by quantitative PCR for vaccine virus presence. Sera were tested for CDV antibodies by virus neutralization. All cats were sero-negative for CDV antibodies at the beginning of the study, and saline-injected cats remained sero-negative throughout the study. A dramatic anamnestic response was seen following wk 4 subcutaneous vaccinations, with titers peaking at wk 6 (geometric mean = 2,435.5). Following wk 49 revaccination, subcutaneous vaccinates again mounted impressive titers (wk 52 geometric mean = 2,048). Revaccination of the intranasal group cats at wk 49 produced a small increase in titers (wk 52 geometric mean = 203). CDV viral RNA was detected in six nasal swabs but no urine samples, demonstrating low viral shedding postvaccination. The strong antibody response to subcutaneous vaccination and the lack of adverse effects suggest this vaccine is safe and potentially protective against CDV infection in domestic cats.
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