Scholarly Communications Project

The Humoral Immune Response of Elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) and Mice to Vaccination with Brucella abortus Strain RB51


Lesley A. Colby

Master's Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Science


Veterinary Medical Sciences


G.G. Schurig DVM, PhD, Chair
S. Ansar Ahmed, BVSc, PhD
N. Sriranganathan, BVSc, MVSc, PhD

February 4, 1997
Blacksburg, Virginia


Vaccine Brucella abortus strain RB51, unlike the wild strain 2308 and another vaccine strain (strain 19) does not induce anti-O-chain antibodies. An efficacious vaccine strain that fails to produce an O-chain and thus a lack of an anti-O-chain humoral response greatly simplifies identification of vaccinated versus field strain infected animals. The three primary objectives of this research were the following: 1) to develop a serological assay to detect anti-RB51 antibodies in vaccinated elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), 2) to identify potential antigenic alterations in RB51 after vaccination of elk and BALB/c mice, and 3) to confirm the general stability of RB51. Elk were divided into four groups based upon gender and the route of inoculation (subcutaneous or ballistic) of RB51 bacteria. This study developed a highly reliable ELISA (using a monoclonal anti-bovine IgG 1 antibody and acetone killed whole RB51 bacteria) which can identify RB51-vaccinated elk. Also, isolates recovered from RB51-vaccinated elk were inoculated into female BALB/c mice whose spleens were then cultured. All elk and mice isolates were bacteriologically, biochemically, and serologically evaluated. This study showed that RB51 is a highly stable strain, which does not revert to smooth morphology or initiate synthesis of LPS-O-chain, maintains it biochemical characteristics, does not undergo detectable antigenic variations, and remains attenuated even after successive passages in elk and mice. Overall, this research indicates that RB51 is a vaccine candidate for the prevention of brucellosis in elk. Further studies are needed to determine the protective capabilities of RB51 in elk.

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