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Identification of shedders of elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses among Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Switzerland


Ackermann, Mathias; Hatt, Jean-Michel; Schetle, Nelli; Steinmetz, Hanspeter (2017). Identification of shedders of elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses among Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Switzerland. PLoS ONE, 12(5):e0176891.

Abstract

Elephants, particularly Asian (Elephas maximus), are threatened by lethal elephant hemorrhagic disease (EHD) due to elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses (EEHV). At least five of seven known EEHV types have been associated to EHD, with types 1, 4, and 5 predominantly affecting Asian elephants. In Switzerland, at least three Asian elephants have been lost due to EHD but nothing is known about the present EEHV1 circulation. Moreover, the prevalence of other EEHV types has never been assessed. Intermittent shedding of EEHV can be monitored through collecting trunk secretions and analyzing them by PCR methods that discriminate the different EEHV types. To identify EEHV shedders, seven of eight Asian elephants in a Swiss zoo were trained to provide trunk wash samples. These were collected at intervals over a period of four months and tested by PCR for presence of EEHV1 through 6. Moreover, the quality of each sample was assessed by testing for the elephant TNFalpha gene. Overall, 57% of the samples were valid with five of seven participating elephants identified as EEHV shedders. Two of those shed virus only once, whereas the other three, all closely related among each other, shed virus on multiple occasions. One of the frequent shedders had been in very close contact to all of the three EHD victims. Therefore, we speculate that this particular animal may represent the virus source in all three cases. However, when subtyping was conducted, the presently circulating virus was identified as EEHV1B, while the virus subtype causing EHD had been 1A in all three cases. In addition to four animals excreting EEHV1, a recently introduced animal was observed to shed EEHV3/4. We suggest that the policy of trunk washing to identify and characterize EEHV-shedders is to be endorsed in zoos with ongoing or planned elephant breeding programs.

Abstract

Elephants, particularly Asian (Elephas maximus), are threatened by lethal elephant hemorrhagic disease (EHD) due to elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses (EEHV). At least five of seven known EEHV types have been associated to EHD, with types 1, 4, and 5 predominantly affecting Asian elephants. In Switzerland, at least three Asian elephants have been lost due to EHD but nothing is known about the present EEHV1 circulation. Moreover, the prevalence of other EEHV types has never been assessed. Intermittent shedding of EEHV can be monitored through collecting trunk secretions and analyzing them by PCR methods that discriminate the different EEHV types. To identify EEHV shedders, seven of eight Asian elephants in a Swiss zoo were trained to provide trunk wash samples. These were collected at intervals over a period of four months and tested by PCR for presence of EEHV1 through 6. Moreover, the quality of each sample was assessed by testing for the elephant TNFalpha gene. Overall, 57% of the samples were valid with five of seven participating elephants identified as EEHV shedders. Two of those shed virus only once, whereas the other three, all closely related among each other, shed virus on multiple occasions. One of the frequent shedders had been in very close contact to all of the three EHD victims. Therefore, we speculate that this particular animal may represent the virus source in all three cases. However, when subtyping was conducted, the presently circulating virus was identified as EEHV1B, while the virus subtype causing EHD had been 1A in all three cases. In addition to four animals excreting EEHV1, a recently introduced animal was observed to shed EEHV3/4. We suggest that the policy of trunk washing to identify and characterize EEHV-shedders is to be endorsed in zoos with ongoing or planned elephant breeding programs.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Institute of Virology
05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:10 May 2017 13:40
Last Modified:19 Feb 2018 07:53
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176891
PubMed ID:28467495

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