Vaccinating wild tigers for canine distemper virus

28 Nov 2020

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Vaccination is the only practical strategy to protect Amur (Siberian) tigers from canine distemper virus (CDV), new research has found.

The study – led by Cornell Wildlife Health Center, the University of Glasgow and the Wildlife Conservation Society – aimed to build a picture of CDV epidemiology in the tigers’ habitat of the Russian Far East. Using samples from domestic dogs, tigers and other wild carnivores, the researchers compared viral genetic sequence data and used antibodies to assess patterns of exposure in each population.

Local wildlife, such as martens, badgers and raccoon dogs, was found to be the primary source of CDV in the tigers, not domestic dogs as previously thought.

Controlling CDV in these wildlife populations is not possible, as there are no CDV oral vaccines that could be distributed through baited food, leaving only one viable possibility — using an injectable vaccine on the tigers themselves.