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Reptarenaviruses in apparently healthy snakes in an Australian zoological collection

Hyndman, T.H., Marschang, R.E., Bruce, M.ORCID: 0000-0003-3176-2094, Clark, P. and Vitali, S.D. (2019) Reptarenaviruses in apparently healthy snakes in an Australian zoological collection. Australian Veterinary Journal, 97 (4). pp. 93-102.

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Inclusion body disease (IBD) is a disease of snakes with a global distribution and has recently been shown to be caused by reptarenaviruses. Testing for this group of viruses in asymptomatic snakes allows the association between infection and disease to be further elucidated.


A reptarenavirus was detected by RT‐PCR in a reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus) from an Australian zoological collection that was open‐mouth breathing and had erythematous oral mucosa. Another 27 pythons, 4 elapids, 2 colubrids and 2 boas from this collection were then screened. From these animals, swabs, whole blood and/or tissue were tested for reptarenaviruses by RT‐PCR. Additionally, blood films from 10 snakes were examined by light microscopy for the presence of inclusion bodies. The majority of samples were collected over a 484‐day period.


A total of 8 animals were RT‐PCR‐positive (8/36 = 22.2%): 6 were pythons, 1 was a corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) and 1 was a Madagascar tree boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis). From them, 57 samples were collected, but only one from each animal was RT‐PCR‐positive (8/57 = 14.0%). From all 36 animals in this study, 8/182 samples were RT‐PCR‐positive (4.4%). Inclusion bodies were not recognised in any of the blood films. Only the reticulated python showed signs of illness, which improved without any further intervention. All other RT‐PCR‐positive snakes were apparently healthy throughout the duration of the study.


This study showed a weak association between the presence of reptarenaviruses and disease. Testing serially collected swab and whole‐blood samples increased the number of animals in which reptarenaviruses were detected.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Wiley
Copyright: © 2019 Australian Veterinary Association
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