Prospects for immunocontraception in the European red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

The European red fox is an introduced pest species in Australia for which improved means of control are urgently needed. Research efforts have focussed recently on the development of novel biological control methods to reduce the serious impact this species continues to have on both native fauna and the sheep industry. The ultimate goal has been to generate an antifertility vaccine for use on foxes that relies on a process termed ?immunocontraception?. A variety of proteins derived from sperm and oocytes, together with different delivery vectors, have been experimentally assessed for their ability to induce immunocontraceptive responses in foxes. Vaccine vectors screened have included Salmonella typhimurium, vaccinia virus and canine herpesvirus but suppression of fertility has yet to be achieved with any combination of antigen and delivery vector. Downregulation of fox mucosal antibodies during oestrus, lack of vector replication and low antibody responses to the target antigens have been the main constraints in successful fertility control. The fox is not well known as an experimental animal and the logistics of dealing with this difficult-to-handle species proved to be a major challenge when compared with other species, such as rabbits and mice. Despite these difficulties, research on fox immunocontraception has generated important insights into the reproductive biology, husbandry, biology and basic immunology of viral vectors in European red foxes. This information represents a valuable knowledge base should antifertility vaccination for foxes be revisited in the future.

Author T. Strive, C. M. Hardy and G. H. Reubel
Date 13/12/2007
Year 2007
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 34
Number 7
Pages 523?529
Notes Notes
Control method Fertility Control
Region Australia - national