In some rodent species frequently exposed to plague outbreaks caused by Yersinia pestis, resistance to the disease has evolved as a population trait. As a first step in determining if plague resistance has developed in black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus), animals captured from colonies in a plague-free region (South Dakota) and two plague-endemic regions (Colorado and Texas) were challenged with Y. pestis at one of three doses (2.5, 250, or 2500 mouse LD50s). South Dakota prairie dogs were far more susceptible to plague than Colorado and Texas prairie dogs (p<0.001), with a mortality rate of nearly 100% over all doses. Colorado and Texas prairie dogs were quite similar in their response, with overall survival rates of 50% and 60%, respectively. Prairie dogs from these states were heterogenous in their response, with some animals dying at the lowest dose (37% and 20%, respectively) and some surviving even at the highest dose (29% and 40%, respectively). Microsatellite analysis revealed that all three groups were distinct genetically, but further studies are needed to establish a genetic basis for the observed differences in plague resistance.
Additional Publication Details
Resistance to plague among black-tailed prairie dog populations