Botulism – The Regal Swan

December 3 , 2002
Florida Researchers Confirm Vaccine Used Against Botulism In Swans Highly Successful

Titer tests conducted over three-year period confirm results and establish vaccination protocols

ORLANDO, Florida — Six Florida researchers confirmed today, that a vaccine used against botulism in swans has been highly successful in showing a sustained level of antibody response. The group’s research offers the first real hope that a vaccine against the deadly Clostridia bacterial toxin can protect the world’s largest waterf ¢owl.

The three-year scientific study and more than 20-year clinical trial of vaccine usage in swans produced no detrimental side effects or deaths in inoculated swans. The Regal SwanTM, a Florida based group, conducted the study while Pfizer Animal Health sponsored the research by providing laboratory and testing assistance. The titer tests were conducted by Rod Little, Pfizer Global Manufacturing.

Current vaccination protocols were established based on the scientific research gathered during the course of the study. The data collected indicated that an additional inoculation would be beneficial to vaccinated cygnets between five and six months of age to enhance and maintain antibody levels. The use of the Pfizer Ultrabac® CD vaccine for use in swans remains an off-label application.

Prior to the research, no proven vaccine existed for the deadly botulism toxin. In the early 80’s, a Lakeland, Florida veterin øarian, Wade G. Gardner, D.V.M., pioneered the use of the Pfizer Ultrabac® CD vaccine in swans to mitigate swan deaths due to botulism at Lake Morton. Some of Lakeland’s English Mute swans are direct descendants of a mating pair of English Mute swans donated to the city by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1957.

Dr. Gardner, now retired, knew that an established vaccine was available for Clostridial diseases in cows. Dr. Gardner theorized that the symptoms of Clostridial diseases could mimic botulism. He began experimental inoculation in the Lakeland swans using the Ultrabac® CD vaccine. Until the Florida group’s research, no titer testing existed in swans and the scientific investigation into OE the swans’ antibody response to the vaccine had not been documented. Initial vaccination protocols were set by Dr. Wade Gardner through his clinical applications. As a result, Lakeland swan deaths due to botulism were mitigated for more than 20 years.

Three swan sites were used in the testing protocols: Lake Morton, a 40-acre lake in Lakeland, Florida, served as the natural lake test site while the eight-acre Fountain Lake at Orange Lake Resort & Country Club in Orlando, Florida, served as the man-made test site. Orange Lake is an 1,100- acre resort developed by Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inns®. The control test site for the research was located at Memphis Zoo in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Regal SwanTM researchers were: Geoffrey R. Gardner, D.V.M., Lakeland Veterinary Hospital, Lakeland, Florida; Christopher W. Brown, D.V.M., Central Florida relief veterinarian, Orlando, Florida; Fanchon F. Funk, Ed.D., associate professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida; Sheila A. Bolin, M.S., swan keeper, Orange Lake Resort & Country Club, Orlando, Florida; Rebecca Webb Wilson, J.D., professional photographer and lifetime trustee of the Memphis Zoological Society, Memphis, Tennessee; and Shirley A. Bolin, A.G.S., head photographer and staff writer, Orange Lake Resort & Country Club, Orlando, Florida.

Additionally, the six-team members compiled crucial information on worldwide swan mortality through the efforts of Roger Cullingham, ( Thamesweb, Windsor, England; Her Majesty’s Swan Warden, Dr. Christopher Perrins, director of The Earl Grey Institute of Ornithology, Oxford University, London, England; Her Majesty’s Swan Marker, David Barber;

Dorothy Beeson, founder, The Swan Sanctuary, Egham, England; Steve Knight, trustee, The Swan Sanctuary, Egham, England; Martin Brown, animal health officer, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Fund, Slimbridge, England; Dr. Vladimir Spitsin, director of the Moscow Zoo, Moscow, Russia;

Sergei Popov, head of research at the Moscow Zoo, Moscow, Russia; and Dr. Nikolai Puchkov, The Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

For more information on The Regal SwanTM, please go to:

Sponsors include:

Pfizer Animal Health, Orange Lake Resort & Country Club, City of Lakeland, Florida, Lakeland Veterinary Hospital, Antech Diagnostic Labs, Inc., American Camper, Blitz® USA, Bushnell Sports Optics Worldwide, Cobra Electronics, Hunt Manufacturing Company, Kaz Incorporated, Lab Essentials, Inc., The National High Magnetic Laboratory, Florida State University; The Memphis Zoo, Orlando Science Center, ( Thamesweb, Windsor, England; Sharn Veterinary, Inc., The Sports Authority, Timex®, VetCare,Vicks Company, IQ Scientific Instruments and Western Pest Services.