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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Immune Mechanisms and Characterization of Injection Site Reactions Involved in the Multi-Year Contraceptive Effect of the GonaCon™ Vaccine

  • Author(s): Miller, Lowell
  • Fagerstone, Kathleen
  • Kemp, Jeffery
  • Killian, Gary
  • Rhyan, Jack
  • et al.

The term “vaccine” has traditionally been associated with establishing immunity (antibodies) to a disease. This immunity is usually developed following administration of killed microorganisms. Disease vaccines typically require 1 to 3 injections, depending on the antigen design and efficacy of the vaccine. The effectiveness of the disease vaccine depends on the immune response developed by the host following exposure to the disease organism. The immunocontraceptive vaccine GonaCon™ is designed to produce immunity to the “self” hormone (GnRH), which is essential to reproductive activity in the mammal. Antibodies to GnRH reduce its biological activity resulting in infertility of both sexes. GonaCon™’s effectiveness as a single-injection immunocontraceptive wildlife vaccine depends on 4 factors. The first is the use of a large foreign mollusk protein in the GnRH conjugate. Second is the design of mollusk/GnRH protein conjugate that presents the GnRH antigen in a repetitious fashion. This design mimics the “danger signal” found in bacterial pathogens to which the animal has been previously exposed. Third is the addition to the vaccine of micrograms of Mycobacterium avium, which is ubiquitous in the environment and activates memory cells. The fourth factor is use of a water-in-oil emulsion, which provides a depot at the injection site, allowing a slow release of the vaccine. With this formulation, the vaccine is presented to the body as a “chronic infection”, even though it is not infectious. The granuloma that normally develops at the injection site plays a prime role in the host’s defense against this “chronic infection”. A WHO report on the use of the alum adjuvant in human vaccines states that “development of a small granuloma is inevitable with vaccines adjuvanted with aluminum, and is to be considered necessary to the efficacy of the adjuvant.” Researching GonaCon™ for use in companion animals, NWRC has looked at many different adjuvants intended to reduce the injection site reaction while at the same time retaining an effective vaccine. This paper reports on the role of the adjuvant and the injection site on the effectiveness of the vaccine.

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