Letter

Nature 443, 692-695 (12 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05177; Received 14 June 2006; Accepted 15 August 2006

Low-coverage vaccination strategies for the conservation of endangered species

D. T. Haydon1, D. A. Randall2,3, L. Matthews4, D. L. Knobel3,4, L. A. Tallents2,3, M. B. Gravenor5, S. D. Williams2,3, J. P. Pollinger6, S. Cleaveland4, M. E. J. Woolhouse7, C. Sillero-Zubiri2,3, J. Marino2,3, D. W. Macdonald2 and M. K. Laurenson3,4,8

The conventional objective of vaccination programmes is to eliminate infection by reducing the reproduction number of an infectious agent to less than one1, which generally requires vaccination of the majority of individuals. In populations of endangered wildlife, the intervention required to deliver such coverage can be undesirable and impractical2; however, endangered populations are increasingly threatened by outbreaks of infectious disease for which effective vaccines exist3, 4. As an alternative, wildlife epidemiologists could adopt a vaccination strategy that protects a population from the consequences of only the largest outbreaks of disease. Here we provide a successful example of this strategy in the Ethiopian wolf, the world's rarest canid5, which persists in small subpopulations threatened by repeated outbreaks of rabies introduced by domestic dogs6. On the basis of data from past outbreaks, we propose an approach that controls the spread of disease through habitat corridors between subpopulations and that requires only low vaccination coverage. This approach reduces the extent of rabies outbreaks and should significantly enhance the long-term persistence of the population. Our study shows that vaccination used to enhance metapopulation persistence through elimination of the largest outbreaks of disease requires lower coverage than the conventional objective of reducing the reproduction number of an infectious agent to less than one1.

  1. Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
  2. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, Tubney House, Oxford OX13 5QL, UK
  3. Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, PO Box 215, Robe, Bale, Ethiopia
  4. Wildlife and Emerging Diseases Section, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
  5. Institute of Life Science, School of Medicine, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP, UK
  6. Conservation Genetics Resource Center, University of California, 621 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA
  7. Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh, Ashworth Laboratories, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JF, UK
  8. Frankfurt Zoological Society, PO Box 14935, Arusha, Tanzania

Correspondence to: D. T. Haydon1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to D.T.H. (Email: D.Haydon@bio.gla.ac.uk).

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