At least three variants of avian pox virus are present in Hawai‘i - Fowlpox from domestic poultry and a group of genetically distinct viruses that cluster within two clades (Pox Variant 1 and Pox Variant 2) that are most similar to Canarypox based on DNA sequence of the virus 4b core protein gene. We tested whether Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi can be protected from wild virus isolates with an attenuated live Canarypox vaccine that is closely related to isolates that cluster within clade 1 (Pox Variant 1) based on sequence of the attenuated Canarypox virus 4b core protein. Thirty-one (31) Hawai`i ‘Amakihi (Hemignathus virens) with no prior physical evidence of pox infection were collected on Mauna Kea from xeric, high elevation habitats with low pox prevalence and randomly divided into two groups. One group of 16 was vaccinated with Poximmune C® while the other group received a sham vaccination with virus diluent. Four of 15 (27%) vaccinated birds developed potentially life-threatening disseminated lesions or lesions of unusually long duration, while one bird never developed a vaccine-associated lesion or "take". After vaccine-associated lesions healed, vaccinated birds were randomly divided into three groups of five and challenged with either a wild isolate of Fowlpox, a Hawai`i `Amakihi isolate of a Canarypox-like virus from clade 1 (Pox Variant 1) or a Hawai`i `Amakihi isolate of a Canarypox-like virus from clade 2 (Pox Variant 2). Similarly, three random groups of five unvaccinated ‘Amakihi were challenged with the same virus isolates. Vaccinated and unvaccinated ‘Amakihi challenged with Fowlpox had transient infections with no clinical signs of infection. Mortality in vaccinated ‘Amakihi that were challenged with Pox Variant 1 and Pox Variant 2 ranged from 0% (0/5) for Pox Variant 1 to 60% (3/5) for Pox Variant 2. Mortality in unvaccinated ‘Amakihi ranged from 40% (2/5) for Pox Variant 1 to 100% (5/5) for Pox Variant 2. While the vaccine provided some protection against Pox Variant 1, serious side effects and low efficacy against Pox Variant 2 make it risky to use in captive or wild honeycreepers.
Additional Publication Details
Efficacy of commercial canarypox vaccine for protecting Hawai'i 'Amakihi from field isolates of Avipoxvirus
Hawaii Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center