Heska Animal Research on Plague Published in Vaccine

Veterinary products company Heska recently announced the publication of its research into a vaccine designed to prevent the spread of plague in animals.

In the past, Heska has collaborated with the U.S.G.S. National Wildlife Health Center on experimental vaccines to prevent plague in prairie dogs using a recombinant agent that uses raccoon poxvirus vectors to induce an immune response in the animals against plague. The raccoon poxvirus is modified to make the animal’s immune system believe it has been exposed to the plague bacterium.

In research published in the March issue of Vaccine, Heska researchers describe their results in using the same technique to immunize mice against plague. According to a press release by the company, “After immunization, mice raise a potent immune response against the foreign bacterial protein that prevents clinical signs of the plague.”

Although plague is no longer the sort of threat to humanity that it once was, plague is still widespread in wild rodent populations such as prairie dogs and mice, and people in North America and elsewhere continue to die every year after being exposed to infected animals. Very few people exposed to the plague bacteria will survive if not treated with antibiotics within the first 24 hours.

Heska’s researcher is aimed at eventually finding a vaccine for the disease that could be delivered orally to wild animal populations by embedding it in baits left in areas heavily populated and trafficked by rodents likely to carry the disease.


Heska Announces Publication of Plague Vaccine Studies. PRNewswire, March 31, 2003.

Vaccine development for plague. Medscape Infectious Diseases, 4(2), 2002.