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Houston's 40-Year Old Elephant Receives mRNA Herpesvirus Vaccine

July 10, 2024 • 7:16 am CDT
Houston Zoo - Baby Lilly elephant
(Precision Vaccinations News)

Colossal today announced that the first elephant in captivity at the Houston Zoo has been administered an experimental herpesvirus mRNA vaccine. The Houston Zoo approved the vaccine and has inoculated Tess, a 40-year-old Asian elephant.

On July 9, 2024, Colossal stated the elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is the number one killer of Asian elephant calves living under managed care in North America and Europe and significantly impacts free-ranging populations of Asian elephants as well.

Recent EEHV-related deaths in several African elephants in the U.S. have raised concerns about EEHV in this elephant species.

Following encouraging results from the initial vaccine trials, the mRNA vaccine will be offered to more facilities, especially those with vulnerable young elephants.

“Colossal supported our efforts to work on an mRNA solution approach,” shared Dr. Paul Ling, Professor at the Department of Microbiology and Virology at Baylor College of Medicine, in a press release.

“It quickly became evident that the mRNA solution was going to be feasible, so we prioritized implementing that approach. We are much further along today than we would have been without Colossal’s scientific support, research teams, and funding.”

In the next three to five years, Dr. Ling hopes this vaccine will be applied to the broad population of elephants under human care worldwide. Following that, the team would look to applications with animals in the wild.

This represents a massive step forward for the protection of elephants globally and a huge step forward for science.

According to the Houston Zoo, Tess, mother to Tucker (19), Tupelo (13), Tilly (6), and Teddy (3) and grandmother to Winnie (3), is currently doing well post-vaccination.

Upon the successful outcome of this first vaccination, the Houston Zoo plans to vaccinate additional animals under its care.

As of July 9, 2024, the U.S. FDA has not approved a herpes vaccine for humans.

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