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Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005 Jun;94(6):682-5.

Absence of oropharyngeal vaccinia virus after vaccinia (smallpox) vaccination.

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Department of Allergy Immunology, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.



With the resumption of the vaccinia (smallpox) vaccination, questions regarding transmission risk prompted this study to determine whether vaccinia virus could be detected in the oropharynx of adults recently vaccinated with vaccinia (smallpox) vaccine. German, Russian, and American studies on the oropharyngeal presence of vaccinia virus revealed conflicting results in different age groups.


To measure vaccinia viral particle or antigen presence in the oropharynx of adult health care workers after vaccination with vaccinia (smallpox) vaccine using viral culture and high-sensitivity assays (polymerase chain reaction [PCR] and electrochemiluminescence) and to determine whether there is an association between the presence of vaccinia virus and adverse reactions.


A total of 155 adults (primary vaccinees and revaccinees) were enrolled for 1 baseline and 5 subsequent throat swabs. The swabs were evaluated using viral culture, PCR, and electrochemiluminescence.


Of the 155 participants, 144 had more than 2 throat swabs in the 2 weeks after vaccination. Of the 801 specimens evaluated, there were no positive results by culture, PCR, or electrochemiluminescence except in the control samples (n = 6), which were positive by all 3 methods.


Based on the absence of detectable vaccinia virus in this study population, one can be 95% certain that the true rate of vaccinia virus in the oropharynx of adults during the 2 weeks after vaccination with vaccinia (smallpox) vaccine is 0% to 3.3%. These data should be reassuring to the medical community and support the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice guidelines that respiratory precautions are not necessary after vaccinia (smallpox) vaccination in healthy adults.

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