Preliminary results of an anticircumsporozoite DNA vaccine trial for protection against avian malaria in captive African black-footed penguins (Spheniscus demersus)

K. Christiana Grim, Thomas McCutchan, Jun Li, Margery Sullivan, Thaddeus K. Graczyk, Glenn McConkey, Michael Cranfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Captive juvenile African black-footed penguins (Spheniscus demersus) housed in an outdoor enclosure at the Baltimore Zoo have an average 50% mortality from avian malarial (Plasmodium sp.) infection each year without intense monitoring for disease and chemotherapeutic intervention. During the 1996 malaria transmission season, the safety and efficacy of an anti-circumsporozoite (CSP) DNA vaccine encoding the Plasmodium gallinaceum CSP protein against P. relictum were studied. The goal was to reduce clinical disease and death without initiating sterile immunity after release into an area with stable, endemic avian malaria. The birds were monitored for adverse clinical signs associated with vaccination, the stimulation of an anti-CSP antibody response, and protection afforded by the vaccine. The presence of P. relictum in trapped culicine mosquitoes within the penguin enclosure was monitored to assess parasite pressure. Among the vaccinated penguins, the parasitemia rate dropped from approximately 50% to approximately 17% despite intense parasite pressure, as determined by mosquito infection rate. During the year of the vaccine trial, no mortalities due to malaria occurred and no undesirable vaccination side effects occurred. This is the first trial of an antimalarial vaccine in a captive penguin colony.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-161
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004



  • African penguin
  • Avian malaria
  • Circumsporozoite
  • DNA vaccine
  • Plasmodium relictum
  • Spheniscus demersus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)

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