I have just seen a tweet from Ellen Cottingham of the University of Melbourne, Australia. The tweet is below. It seemed to be saying to me that in Australia’s drive to eradicate feral cats from their continent they have tried everything and are now looking at feline immunocontraceptives as a potential population management tool. So, what does it mean?
Great to chat about the impact of feral cats in Australia and use of virally-vectored immunocontraceptives as a potential population management tool ?#AVPC2021 @ApcahUnimelb pic.twitter.com/AN7ZueL1lY
— Ellen Cottingham (@Elle_Cottingham) May 25, 2021
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A while ago I wrote about genetic engineering to make male cats sterile. This seems to be something similar but more advanced in terms of its impending use. I believe this form of sterilisation works by using a ‘virally-vectored’ vaccine which is injected into cats to make them temporarily sterile. It achieves this by instigating an ‘adaptive immune response’. This means a response to specific pathogens through antibodies (immunoglobulins) and T-cells. The term ‘virally vectored’ means that it works a bit like some of the coronavirus vaccines in using a virus to carry the vaccine. It uses a virus to deliver the vaccine inside a cell because viruses are designed to enter cells.
But in this case, the vaccine does not stimulate the production of antibodies against a pathogen but against Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which releases two hormones which ‘orchestrate the reproductive cycle and regulate the sex secretion from the gonads’.
As I understand it, this vaccine interferes with the Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which makes the cat sterile. The vaccine is designed to get the cat to fight itself in a similar way to an autoimmune response.
They say that immunocontraception is more practical and cost effective compared to surgical sterilisation and return to the environment (TNR). And TNR is limited in scope due its ‘expense and logistical impediments’ (practical issues of getting it done).
In short, immunocontraception is simpler and cheaper, which is why it is being developed as an alternative way to sterilise feral cats and reduce their number in Australia. That’s my understanding of this development. Comment: I am not sure that it is easier logistically. It will still mean trapping the cats and injecting them although and injection is simpler than a spaying and even a neutering operation. So maybe it is a good development. Perhaps they’ll use darts to inject the cats!
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