Melissa Kaplan's
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Last updated January 1, 2014

Paramyxovirus and Reptiles

Journal Abstracts

Compiled by Melissa Kaplan, 2003


An iguana keeper asked if iguanas can catch/transmit Newcastle's disease, an avian-specific paramyxovirus. The answer, such as it is, is that there are reptilian paramyxoviruses, just as there are reptilian herpesviruses, adenoviruses, and other types of organisms. Typically, the specific microorganisms are host-specific, though related to host-specific organisms infecting other classes of hosts (birds vs. avians, for example).

The following abstracts will give some idea of the research into paramyxoviruses that include reptilian lines, and illustrate, I think, just how complex the picture is and how we are still scratching the surface, considering the type and geographic diversity of reptiles world-wide.


Paramyxoviral and reoviral infections of iguanas on Honduran Islands.
J Wildl Dis 34[1]:33-8 1998 Jan. Gravendyck M ; Ammermann P ; Marschang RE ; Kaleta EF

Thirty-five free-ranging healthy spiny-tailed iguanas (31 Ctenosaura bakeri, 4 C. similis) and 14 green iguanas (Iguana iguana) were caught and held in captivity for 2 days. Blood was collected from all animals and their sera were evaluated for antibody titres against reptilian reoviruses, reptilian paramyxoviruses, and avian paramyxovirus-1 (PMV-1). Cloacal and pharyngeal swabs also were collected and examined for viral content by incubation on chicken embryo fibroblasts (CEF) and terrapene heart cells (TH-1). No virus was isolated from the pharyngeal and cloacal swabs on CEF and TH-1. Twenty-three (47%) of 49 sera samples tested positive for reptilian reoviruses by virus neutralization tests. Twenty (41%) of 49 samples had antibodies against one reptilian PMV isolate by virus neutralization tests and 3 (9%) of 34 by hemagglutination inhibition tests. No antibodies were detected against the other PMV isolate of reptilian origin nor against avian PMV-1. This is the first description of serum antibodies against reptilian reoviruses and PMV in wild iguanas.


Replication of reptilian paramyxovirus in avian host systems.
Zentralbl Veterinarmed [B] 46[1]:57-62 1999 Feb.
Ahne W ; Adrian J ; Mayr A

The reptilian paramyxovirus GOV replicated in chicken embryo fibroblasts, in embryonated chicken eggs and in explanted chorio-allantoic membrane with titres of up to 10(8.2) TCID50/ml at 28 degrees C. The virus did not multiply above 30 degrees C [86 degrees F]. GOV re-isolated from the avian host systems was identified by immunofluorescence and by immunogold-electron microscopy.


Comparative sequence analyses of sixteen reptilian paramyxoviruses.
Virus Res 63[1-2]:65-74 1999 Sep.
Ahne W, Batts WN, Kurath G, Winton JR

Viral genomic RNA of Fer-de-Lance virus (FDLV), a paramyxovirus highly pathogenic for reptiles, was reverse transcribed and cloned. Plasmids with significant sequence similarities to the hemagglutinin- neuraminidase (HN) and polymerase (L) genes of mammalian paramyxoviruses were identified by BLAST search. Partial sequences of the FDLV genes were used to design primers for amplification by nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and sequencing of 518-bp L gene and 352- bp HN gene fragments from a collection of 15 previously uncharacterized reptilian paramyxoviruses. Phylogenetic analyses of the partial L and HN sequences produced similar trees in which there were two distinct subgroups of isolates that were supported with maximum bootstrap values, and several intermediate isolates. Within each subgroup the nucleotide divergence values were less than 2.5%, while the divergence between the two subgroups was 20-22%. This indicated that the two subgroups represent distinct virus species containing multiple virus strains. The five intermediate isolates had nucleotide divergence values of 11-20% and may represent additional distinct species. In addition to establishing diversity among reptilian paramyxoviruses, the phylogenetic groupings showed some correlation with geographic location, and clearly demonstrated a low level of host species-specificity within these viruses.


Paramyxovirus infection in caiman lizards (Draecena guianensis).
J Vet Diagn Invest 13[2]:143-51 2001 Mar. Jacobson ER, Origgi F, Pessier AP, Lamirande EW, Walker I, Whitaker B, Stalis IH, Nordhausen R, Owens JW, Nichols DK, Heard D, Homer B

Three separate epidemics occurred in caiman lizards (Dracaena guianensis) that were imported into the USA from Peru in late 1998 and early 1999. Histologic evaluation of tissues from necropsied lizards demonstrated a proliferative pneumonia. Electron microscopic examination of lung tissue revealed a virus that was consistent with members of the family Paramyxoviridae. Using a rabbit polyclonal antibody against an isolate of ophidian (snake) paramyxovirus, an immunoperoxidase staining technique demonstrated immunoreactivity within pulmonary epithelial cells of 1 lizard. Homogenates of lung, brain, liver, or kidney from affected lizards were placed in flasks containing monolayers of either terrapene heart cells or viper heart cells. Five to 10 days later, syncytial cells formed. When Vero cells were inoculated with supernatant of infected terrapene heart cells, similar syncytial cells developed. Electron microscopic evaluation of infected terrapene heart cells revealed intracytoplasmic inclusions consisting of nucleocapsid strands. Using negative-staining electron microscopy, abundant filamentous nucleocapsid material with a herringbone structure typical of the Paramyxoviridae was observed in culture medium of infected viper heart cells. Seven months following the initial epizootic, blood samples were collected from surviving group 1 lizards, and a hemagglutination inhibition assay was performed to determine presence of specific antibody against the caiman lizard isolate. Of the 17 lizards sampled, 7 had titers of < or =1:20 and 10 had titers of >1:20 and < or =1:80. This report is only the second of a paramyxovirus identified in a lizard and is the first to snow the relationship between histologic and ultrastructural findings and virus isolation.


Identification and molecular characterization of 18 paramyxoviruses isolated from snakes.
Virus Res 80[1-2]:67-74 2001 Nov 28. Franke J, Essbauer S, Ahne W, Blahak S

Viral agents from 18 different snake species (families Colubridae, Viperidae, and Crotalidae) showing respiratory symptoms and neuronal disease were identified as paramyxoviruses by typical cytopathogenic effect (CPE), electron microscopy, and hemagglutination inhibition. Detailed molecular characterization of the viruses was performed by partial L- and F-gene-specific reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and sequencing, nucleotide and amino acid sequence alignment, and phylogenetic analysis (PHYLIP). RT-PCR of the partial L-gene (566 nt) was successful for all 18 viruses; amplicons of the partial F-gene (918 nt) could be obtained in 16 cases. F- and L-sequence alignment revealed similarities to Fer de Lance virus (FDLV) ranging from 79 to 88% on a nucleotide basis, and 94 to 99% on an amino acid basis. Phylogenetic analysis of the ophidian paramyxoviruses resulted in three clusters for the L-gene sequence and corresponding clusters for the F-gene sequence, indicating no species specificity. We analyzed the F-protein of the snake paramyxoviruses, which proved to have an identical conserved motif of heptad repeat A and predicted a furin cleavage site. This uniformity distinguishes the snake virus group from the other type species of the subfamily Paramyxovirinae. For further classification, we aligned the sequences of the ophidian paramyxoviruses and members of the Paramyxoviridae, such as Sendai virus (genus Respirovirus), mumps virus (genus Rubulavirus), measles virus (genus Morbillivirus), human respiratory syncytial virus (genus Pneumovirus) (Van Regenmortel and 10 co-authors, 2000) and Hendra virus, which have recently been suggested as type species of the genus Henipavirus (Wang et al., 2000). Maximum sequence similarity was found to the partial L-gene of Sendai virus, with 56% nucleotide and 61% amino acid identity. The FDLV and Sendai virus cluster in the phylogenetic analysis of L- and F-protein regarding the Paramyxovirus type species and Hendra virus and show the closest relationship. Regarding the biological properties, the antigenic distance, and particularly the low homology of available sequences, we propose a new genus for the reptilian paramyxoviruses within the Paramyxoviridae.


Use of Serology in Reptile Medicine
Semin Avian Exotic Pet Med 11[1]:33-45 Jan'02 Review Article 110 Refs. Elliott R. Jacobson, MS, DVM, PhD*, and Francesco Origgi, DVM

Serologic assays are emerging as powerful tools for both diagnosing and screening collections of reptiles for exposure to and infection with certain pathogens. For the most part, these tests were developed in research laboratories with a specific interest in diseases of captive and free-ranging reptiles. Relatively few are commercially available, with most offered through individual research laboratories or universities. Tests have been developed for exposure to paramyxovirus of snakes, mycoplasma of tortoises and crocodilians, herpesvirus infection of marine turtles and tortoises, cryptosporidium of snakes, and spirorchid trematodes of sea turtles. Of the various serologic tests, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is becoming the test with the most application. Although ELISA is relatively simple and has certain positive attributes such as high sensitivity and specificity, in the indirect format it does require specific anti-reptile immunoglobulins that recognize and bind to the antibody being assayed. In this report, we review reptile humoral immunity for the major orders of reptiles, assays available for determining exposure of reptiles to specific pathogens, and factors affecting the immune response of reptiles.

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