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Keywords:

  • tetanus;
  • immunization;
  • titers;
  • long-term immunity;
  • Cayo Santiago;
  • macaque;
  • tetanus antibody;
  • tetanus antitoxin;
  • tetanus toxoid

Abstract

Prior to 1985 tetanus was a major cause of mortality in the free-ranging colony of rhesus monkeys on Cayo Santiago, accounting for almost a quarter of annual deaths. In 1985 and 1986 all animals (except infants) received primary and booster doses, respectively, of tetanus toxoid. In subsequent years primary immunizations were given to all yearlings, and boosters were administered to all 2-year-old animals during the annual capture of the colony. The main objectives of the tetanus immunization program were to reduce the pain and suffering caused by tetanus infections and to decrease mortality in the colony. Other objectives were to evaluate the efficacy of the two-dose tetanus toxoid immunization protocol and to determine whether additional boosters might be required to provide adequate long-term protection against tetanus infections. The immediate effect of the mass immunization program was the elimination of clinical tetanus infections in the population and a 42.2% reduction in the overall mortality rate. Since the immunization program began, no cases of tetanus have been observed in the colony, except in two unimmunized infants, and it has not been necessary to give tertiary injections of tetanus toxoid to maintain protection against infection. A sample collected in 2004 of the original cohort of monkeys immunized in 1985 and 1986 showed that 93.3% (14/15) had protective tetanus antibody titers (>0.01 IU/ml) at the ages of 20–23 years, which is close to the life expectancy of the Cayo Santiago rhesus macaques. Two intramuscular doses of tetanus toxoid provided long-term, if not lifelong, protection against tetanus for rhesus monkeys living in a tropical clime where tetanus is enzootic and the risk of infection is great. Am. J. Primatol. 68:725–731, 2006.© 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.