Astroviral Diarrhea in a Group of Captive Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus): Description of a Novel Viral Pathogen
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2008
Adrienne Atkins1,2, DVM; James F.X. Wellehan, Jr.1, DVM, MS, DACZM, DACVM (Virology, Bacteriology/Mycology); April L. Childress1; Linda L. Archer1, BS; William A. Fraser3, BS; Scott B. Citino2, DVM, DACZM
1College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA; 2White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, FL, USA; 3Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Division of Animal Industry, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Kissimmee, FL, USA


Five young adult and two adult cheetahs presented with lethargy, anorexia, watery diarrhea, and regurgitation over an 11-day period. Fecal samples were submitted for electron microscopy and culture. Electron microscopy results revealed all animals to be positive for an astrovirus, and no significant bacterial pathogens were identified on fecal cultures. All animals were monitored and treated with bismuth subsalicylate tablets (524 mg PO BID for 5 days) and recovered without additional intervention.

The astrovirus was confirmed and sequenced using consensus astroviral PCR. Phylogenetic analysis was performed on both the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) and the capsid protein.

Astroviruses are small RNA viruses that are difficult to distinguish by electron microscopy from picornaviruses and caliciviruses. In mammals, they typically cause diarrhea. Astroviral diarrhea differs from other viral diarrheas in that the capsid interacts with apical enterocyte membranes, causing a secretory diarrhea without leaving much of a histologic lesion.1,2 This is the first report we are aware of documenting an astrovirus outbreak in cheetah.

Literature Cited

1.  Koci, M.D., L.A. Moser, L.A. Kelly, D. Larsen, C.C. Brown, S. Schultz-Cherry. 2003. Astrovirus induces diarrhea in the absence of inflammation and cell death. J. Virol. 77: 11798–11808.

2.  Moser L.A., M. Carter, S. Schultz-Cherry. 2007. Astrovirus increases epithelial barrier permeability independently of viral replication. J. Virol. 81: 11937–11945.


Speaker Information
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Adrienne Atkins, DVM
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, USA

White Oak Conservation Center
Yulee, FL, USA

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