Emerging Diseases in Reptiles and How We May Be Changing Our Definition of Health
Wildlife Epidemiology Lab, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA
Deteriorating wildlife health threatens the sustainability and success of conservation efforts. Techniques that characterize wellness in wildlife utilize specific biomedical diagnostics. Hematologic, plasma biochemical, and pathogen prevalence data have been utilized as a means of determining the wellness of free-ranging reptile populations, but for the most part have not been critically evaluated. Two infectious diseases that have been proposed as a threat to biodiversity and affect free-ranging and captive reptiles include Ranavirus and Ophidiomyces (snake fungal disease or SFD). Antemortem diagnostic tests for these pathogens revolve around molecular detection, but the relationship of the pathogen to the host response, as determined by clinical pathology, is unknown. This study investigated both host and pathogen factors that help to shape the health of turtles and snakes in the face of these diseases. It is clear that a multi-modal approach to reptile wellness is required to better characterize these diseases, and reliance on mammalian diagnostic approaches requires modification to be useful in these species. A review of clinical pathology, protein electrophoresis, disease pathogenesis, and treatment modalities will be reviewed for Ranavirus and SFD.