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Effects Of Vaccination On The Endocrine And Immune Systems of Dogs

Phase II
Purdue University, November 1, 1999
Drs. Harm HogenEsch and Larry T. Glickman

Concern has been growing among owners, breeders, and veterinarians that current vaccines cause immune-mediated diseases in dogs. Vaccination is highly effective in preventing infectious disease, but the safety of many vaccines and the frequency of their administration are being questioned. The Vaccine Research Group at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine has been conducting several studies to address these issues. In one such study, we are trying to determine if current vaccines cause changes in the immune system of the dog that will eventually result in life-threatening immune mediated diseases. The Beagle being used in this study were bred by us and then vaccinated following a typical schedule used for pet dogs. These Beagles have been closely followed for three years with blood and other tests performed at regular intervals.

To date, routing vaccination of these Beagles has not caused any overt signs of clinical disease. However, the blood of all the vaccinated dogs contains significantly elevated concentrations of antibodies directed against proteins that are present in commercial vaccines as contaminants of the production process. None of the unvaccinated control dogs has had a similar increase in these antibodies. These proteins are typically of bovine origin since fetal calf serum is used to grow the viruses for vaccine production. The close similarity in structure of the bovine proteins to dog proteins results in a situation whereby the antibodies produced by the vaccinated dogs may cross-react with dog tissue proteins in a process similar to autoimmunity. Experiments in other animal species suggest that these autoantibodies might eventually cause diseases in the vaccinated animals, but these Beagle dogs will need to be followed longer to determine if this is the case. In addition, the pattern of individual responses of the immune system to vaccination in this study suggests a possible genetic predisposition to autoimmunity.

The study described above is unique in that it attempts to determine if vaccinations that dogs routinely receive throughout their life have a cumulative adverse effect. The only way this is possible is under experimental conditions where one group of dogs remains unvaccinated. The vaccine studies we are conducting both in Beagles and in pet dogs under natural conditions are designed to answer the question: "Does vaccination play a role in autoimmunity, how safe are currently used vaccines, and how often should these vaccines be administered?"