West Nile virus seroconversion in penguins after vaccination with a killed virus vaccine or a DNA vaccine

Michelle R. Davis, Jennifer N. Langan, Yvette J. Johnson, Branson W. Ritchie, William Van Bonn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To investigate the serologic response of penguins to West Nile virus (WNV) vaccines, four species of exclusively indoor-housed penguins, negative for WNV by serology, were evaluated: Humboldt (Spheniscus humboldti), Magellanic (Spheniscus magellanicus), Gentoo (Pygoscelis papua), and Rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysoscome) penguins. Birds were inoculated with either a killed virus vaccine or a plasmid-mediated DNA WNV vaccine, and postinoculation serology was evaluated. Both vaccines induced seroconversion in all four species, and no adverse reactions were noted. Postvaccination serology results varied across species and vaccine types. However, in all four species, the killed virus vaccine resulted in a greater seroconversion rate than the DNA vaccine and in a significantly shorter time period. Additionally, the duration of the seropositive titer was significantly longer in those birds vaccinated with the killed virus vaccine compared with those vaccinated with the DNA vaccine. A subset of unvaccinated penguins serving as negative controls remained negative throughout the duration of the study despite the presence of WNV in the geographic locations of the study, suggesting that indoor housing may minimize exposure to the virus and may be an additional means of preventing WNV infection in penguins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-589
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Avian
  • DNA vaccines
  • Eudyptes chrysoscome
  • Penguins
  • Plasmid
  • Pygoscelis papua
  • Spheniscus humboldti
  • Spheniscus magellanicus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • General Veterinary


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