August 14, 2019

As recent news stories attest, measles is one of the most infectious diseases on Earth — and it affects more than just humans. Nonhuman primates are also at risk.

Although the CNPRC requires all employees and visitors to obtain measles vaccination or show proof of immunity, the center’s animals could still be at risk of outside contamination. Before 1996, the only vaccination protocols for nonhuman primates were based on protocols developed for humans, but these were not cost-effective, and primate facilities needed a better option.

This is why, since 1996, Kari Christe, DVM, has worked to test the safest and most efficient way to vaccinate the entire CNPRC rhesus macaque monkey colony. Her team’s work is also providing information to help other facilities make informed decisions on how to protect their animal colonies.

Christe and her veterinary team have made significant progress. Before this research began, many primate facilities did not have the resources to vaccinate their monkeys. But Christe and team have shown it is possible to protect rhesus macaques from measles in a cost-effective fashion using only half the recommended dose of a specific type of vaccine — the measles and canine distemper vaccine — in comparison to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine used in humans. The new strategy will save research facilities, zoos and conservation organizations at least $3 per animal (there are nearly 4,000 animals at the CNPRC), based on the most recent estimates. 

With safer and more cost-effective vaccine protocols than ever before, Christe and CNPRC veterinarians are working their way toward protecting all nonhuman primates from measles at their facility and beyond. And this means those same animals will be able to participate in NPRC research studies focused on improving health for humans and animals alike.

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