Distemper, extinction, and vaccination of the Amur tiger

Martin Gilbert, Nadezhda Sulikhan, Olga Uphyrkina, Mikhail Goncharuk, Linda Kerley, Enrique Hernandez Castro, Richard Reeve, Tracie Seimon, Denise McAloose, Ivan V Seryodkin, Sergey V Naidenko, Christopher A Davis, Gavin S Wilkie, Sreenu B Vattipally, Walt E Adamson, Chris Hinds, Emma C Thomson, Brian J Willett, Margaret J Hosie, Nicola LoganMichael McDonald, Robert J Ossiboff, Elena I Shevtsova, Stepan Belyakin, Anna A Yurlova, Steven A Osofsky, Dale G Miquelle, Louise Matthews, Sarah Cleaveland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Canine distemper virus (CDV) has recently emerged as an extinction threat for the endangered Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica). CDV is vaccine-preventable, and control strategies could require vaccination of domestic dogs and/or wildlife populations. However, vaccination of endangered wildlife remains controversial, which has led to a focus on interventions in domestic dogs, often assumed to be the source of infection. Effective decision making requires an understanding of the true reservoir dynamics, which poses substantial challenges in remote areas with diverse host communities. We carried out serological, demographic, and phylogenetic studies of dog and wildlife populations in the Russian Far East to show that a number of wildlife species are more important than dogs, both in maintaining CDV and as sources of infection for tigers. Critically, therefore, because CDV circulates among multiple wildlife sources, dog vaccination alone would not be effective at protecting tigers. We show, however, that low-coverage vaccination of tigers themselves is feasible and would produce substantive reductions in extinction risks. Vaccination of endangered wildlife provides a valuable component of conservation strategies for endangered species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31954-31962
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Issue number50
Early online date23 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild/virology
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Disease Reservoirs/veterinary
  • Distemper/epidemiology
  • Distemper Virus, Canine/genetics
  • Dogs/blood
  • Endangered Species/economics
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Economic
  • Phylogeny
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Siberia
  • Tigers/blood
  • Vaccination/economics
  • Vaccination Coverage/economics
  • Viral Vaccines/administration & dosage


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