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Serological survey for orthopoxvirus infection of wild mammals in areas where a recombinant rabies virus is used to vaccinate foxes
  1. D. Boulanger, PhD, BSc1,1,
  2. A. Crouch, BSc, MSc2,
  3. B. Brochier, PhD, DVM1,
  4. M. Bennett, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS2,
  5. J. Clément, MD5,
  6. R. M. Gaskell, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS3,
  7. D. Baxby, BSc, PhD, FRCPath4 and
  8. P.-P. Pastoret, PhD, DVM1
  1. 1 Department of Immunology-Vaccinology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, Boulevard de Colonster, 20-B43 bis, B-4000 Sart Tilman-Liège, Belgium
  2. 2 Department of Veterinary Clinical Science
  3. 3 Department of Veterinary Pathology
  4. 4 Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX
  5. 5 Belgian Zoonosis Workgroup, Queen Astrid Hospital, B-1120 Brussels, Belgium


Several fox vaccination campaigns against rabies have been undertaken in Belgium by using a vaccinia-rabies recombinant virus distributed in baits in the field. However, foxes and other wild animals that may ingest the baits could be infected at the same time by another orthopoxvirus, such as cowpox virus, which circulates in wildlife. Recombination between the two viruses could therefore occur. A serological survey for antibodies to orthopoxvirus, and particularly to cowpox virus, was undertaken in foxes and in several other wild species. Antibodies were detected only in two rodent species, in 16 of 25 bank voles (64 per cent) and in two of 29 woodmice (7 per cent). The risk of virus recombination in wildlife can therefore be considered to be extremely low.

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  • Dr Boulanger's present address is Institute for Animal Health, Compton Laboratory, Compton, Newbury RG20 7NN

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