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Reproduction. 2006 Dec;132(6):821-8.

Immunocontraception of mammalian wildlife: ecological and immunogenetic issues.

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  • 1Australian and New Zealand Conservation Laboratories, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia.


Immunocontraception involves stimulating immune responses against gametes or reproductive hormones thus preventing conception. The method is being developed for the humane control of pest and overabundant populations of mammalian wildlife. This paper examines three fundamental issues associated with its use: (1) the difficulties of obtaining responses to self-antigens, (2) the likely evolution of genetically based non-response to immunocontraceptive agents, and (3) the possible changes in the array of pathogens possessed by the target species after generations of immunocontraception. Our review of the literature demonstrates that the barriers to an effective immunocontraceptive are at present very basic. Should they be overcome, the effects of immunocontraception on the immunogenetic constitution of wildlife populations through the selection for non-responders must be examined. We suggest that the attempt to use the animal's own immune system to modulate reproduction may be incompatible with the basic biological function of protection against infectious disease. Research programs on mammalian immunocontraception should involve measurement of the heritability of non-response and an assessment of the likely change in the response of the contracepted population to possible pathogens.

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