Testing a molasses-based bait for oral vaccination of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) against Mycobacterium bovis


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Michigan, USA, are wildlife reservoirs of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) with documented spread to cattle. In vaccine efficacy trials, Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette–Guerin (BCG) administered orally reduces colonization and bTB-associated lesions in white-tailed deer after experimental challenge with virulent M. bovis. The objective of this study was to develop and evaluate the palatability of a molasses-based bait for oral delivery of BCG to white-tailed deer. Relevant practical properties of the bait such as physical stability under various environmental conditions were evaluated, as well as palatability. Captive deer consumed baits within 3 h of introduction during 48 of 50 trials. Digital game cameras revealed consumption of all placed baits by one deer over 62 % of the time. Addition of BCG vaccine did not negatively impact palatability. Physical stability analysis demonstrated that ice and water significantly reduced bait stability as measured with a compression assay. Storage of BCG-containing baits at 4 °C showed a slight decrease in colony-forming units (CFUs) by day 31. In contrast, storage at −20 or −80 °C over the same 31-day period showed no significant decrease in BCG viability. The results of this study suggest that molasses-based baits, as prepared here, represent a plausible means of oral delivery of BCG to white-tailed deer under most environmental conditions.

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The authors thank David Lubbers and Jay Steffen for animal care, Emma Frimml-Morgan and Allen Jensen for technical assistance, and Rebecca Madison for veterinary care. Mention of trade names of commercial products in this article is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the US Department of Agriculture.

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Correspondence to M. V. Palmer.

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Communicated by C. Gortázar

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Near video images showing data collection of bait consumption observations. An example of “Different deer returning” is shown. (MPG 4656 kb).

Online Resource 1

Near video images showing data collection of bait consumption observations. An example of “Different deer returning” is shown. (MPG 4656 kb).

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Palmer, M.V., Stafne, M.R., Waters, W.R. et al. Testing a molasses-based bait for oral vaccination of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) against Mycobacterium bovis . Eur J Wildl Res 60, 265–270 (2014).

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  • Bait
  • White-tailed deer
  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Vaccination