Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Mammalogy 71(2):129-138, 1990. Published Quarterly by the American Society of Mammalogists


The antibody responses of female Microtuspennsylvanicus inoculated with a series of antigens not normally encountered under field conditions were examined, and the kinetics of maternally acquired antibody loss in their offspring were determined. The initial antibody response in adults was rapid, peaking in 4-9 weeks, and long-lasting, with a half life of 4-5 months. Antibody levels in females were unaffected by parity, and more than one antigen could be given without affecting circulating-antibody titers. Antibody titers could be enhanced with additional inoculations. Maternal antibody in offspring increased until weaning at 3 weeks then declined exponentially. Minimal detectable titers were reached at 7-11 weeks. In many instances, maternal antibody remained detectable even after offspring reached adult (35 g) size. Examination of uninoculated wild-caught voles showed only one of 130 tests produced a "false" positive response. The exotic-antigen technique may be generally applicable for determining maternity in small, secretive mammals.