Fatal Ranavirus Outbreak in a Captive Group of Meller’s Chameleons (Trioceros melleri)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2017
Samantha J. Sander1, DVM, DACZM; Lauren Peiffer2, DVM; Kathleen Gabrielson2, DVM, PhD; Allan Pessier3, DVM, DACVP; Matthew C. Allender4, DVM, PhD, DACZM; Thomas Waltzek5, MS, DVM, PhD; Ellen Bronson1, med vet, DACZM
1The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, USA; 2Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA; 3Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA; 4Department of Comparative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA; 5Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA


Five captive-bred Meller’s chameleons (Trioceros melleri) presented over a 1-mo period with severe morbidity to acute mortality. Clinical signs included lethargy, dehydration, poor appetite, dysecdysis, mucoid ocular discharge, and skin vesicles. Empirical treatment, including famciclovira (20 mg/kg p.o., s.i.d.), ceftazidimeb (30 mg/kg s.c., every 3 days), and meloxicamc (0.2 mg/kg once s.c.), gavage feeding, and subcutaneous fluid administration, was pursued without obvious clinical effect. All cases displayed rapid clinical progression, ending in natural death or euthanasia a maximum of 11 days after the onset of clinical signs. Gross necropsy lesions included mild coelomic effusion and petechiation of the tongue and kidneys. Histopathologic changes included necrosis of the spleen, liver, kidney, adrenal tissue, and nasal cavity and basophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies in the liver and nasal mucosa. Viral quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from each individual was positive for ranavirus but negative for herpesvirus and adenovirus. Further, ranavirus sequencing was consistent with the known frog virus 3 strain present in the Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) group housed at the same facility.1 The two species had no identifiable direct or indirect sources of contact to facilitate transmission. Further, the Meller’s chameleons were housed in a mesh sided enclosure immediately adjacent to a similar enclosure housing an Oustalet’s chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti). That animal remained asymptomatic and PCR negative until its death of unrelated causes 8 mo after this outbreak. To the authors’ knowledge, this case series is the first to document ranavirus associated disease in the Chamaeleonidae family.


a. Roxane Laboratories, Inc, Columbus, OH, USA

b. Hospira Worldwide, Inc, Lake Forest, Il, USA

c. Norbrook Laboratories Limited, MWI, Boise, ID, USA


The authors would like to thank the animal care staff at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for the diligent care they provided for these chameleons.

Literature Cited

1.  Sim RR, Allender MC, Crawford LK, Wack AN, Murphy KJ, Mankowski JL, Bronson E. Ranavirus epizootic in captive Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) with concurrent herpesvirus and Mycoplasma infection: management and monitoring. J Zoo Wildl Med. 2016;47:256–270.


Speaker Information
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Samantha J. Sander, DVM, DACZM
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
Baltimore, MD, USA

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