Date of this Version
Vaccine 31 (2013) 4619– 4623;
Adrenocortical disease (ACD) is a common problem in surgically sterilized, middle-aged to old ferrets (Mustela putorius furo). The adrenal tissues of these ferrets develop hyperplasia, adenomas, or adenocarcinomas, which produce steroid hormones including estradiol, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, and androstenedione. Major clinical signs attributable to overproduction of these hormones are alopecia (hair loss) in both sexes and a swollen vulva in females. Pruritus, muscle atrophy, hind limb weakness, and sexual activity or aggression are also observed in both sexes. Males can develop prostatic cysts, prostatitis, and urethral obstruction. ACD is thought to be linked to continuous and increased LH secretion, due to lack of gonadal hormone feedback in neutered ferrets. This continuous elevated LH acts on adrenal cortex LH receptors, resulting in adrenal hyperplasia or adrenal tumor. This study investigated whether the immunocontraceptive vaccine GonaCon™, a GnRH vaccine developed to reduce the fertility of wildlife species and the spread of disease, could prevent or delay onset of ACD and treat alopecia in ferrets with existing ACD. Results showed that GonaCon provided relief from ACD by causing production of antibodies to GnRH, probably suppressing production and/or release of LH. Treatment caused many ACD symptoms to disappear, allowing the ferrets to return to a normal life. The study also found that the probability of developing ACD was significantly reduced in ferrets treated with GonaCon when young (1–3 years old) compared to untreated control animals. GonaCon caused injection site reaction in some animals when administered as an intramuscular injection but caused few side effects when administered subcutaneously. Both intramuscular and subcutaneous vaccination resulted in similar levels of GnRH antibody titers. Subcutaneous vaccination with GonaCon is thus recommended to prevent the onset of ACD and as a possible treatment for ACD-signs in domestic ferrets.