Serological testing--an alternative to boosters?

Vet Microbiol. 2006 Oct 5;117(1):39-42. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2006.04.008. Epub 2006 Apr 18.


The issue of the duration of immunity, particularly for the modified live viral components of veterinary vaccines, has been a significant part of the recent vaccination debate. One manufacturer has increased the recommended booster interval for these components to 3 years give name and another now states 'up to 4 years' immunity. There remain many unanswered questions regarding this duration of immunity (DOI). Studies suitable for data sheet claims are time consuming and costly and can only be performed in laboratory dogs under tightly controlled conditions. Evidence from rabies serology testing in the UK shows that the response of individual animals to routine vaccination is highly variable. Much of the published field evidence on the persistence of antibody titres originates from North America, where vaccination strategies and reservoir species differ from Europe. Quantifying the effect of exposure to field virus on the maintenance of immunity in these studies is impossible, and little is known of the circulation of virus in unvaccinated dogs and wild mammals throughout Europe. If owners or vets are concerned about revaccination one option is to assess the need for each booster by performing a blood test. There is some published evidence of the relationship between antibody titres and protective immunity, and tests are available to measure responses to individual viral components of the routine canine and feline vaccines. It must be remembered that most commercial tests to assess immunity only measure antibodies, which are only one aspect of the immune response to vaccination. It is therefore possible that animals without or with low antibody titres are in fact protected. Serological tests are an option if owners are unwilling to have their animal boostered without evidence that it is needed. However, the cost of these tests is likely to exceed that of booster vaccination for the foreseeable future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Drug Administration Schedule / veterinary
  • Immunization, Secondary / economics
  • Immunization, Secondary / veterinary*
  • Serologic Tests / economics
  • Serologic Tests / methods
  • Serologic Tests / veterinary*
  • Time Factors
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Viral Vaccines