Identification of Two Novel Herpesviruses Associated with Ocular Inflammation in Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2006
James F.X. Wellehan, DVM, MS, DACZM; April J. Johnson, DVM; April Childress; Ramiro Isaza, DVM, MS, DACZM
Zoological Medicine Service, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA


Disease caused by a herpes virus (EEHV) is a serious concern in Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) calves.1 Herpes viruses are known for latency and life-long infections, with periodic shedding from mild inflammatory lesions in adapted adult hosts. Ocular disease has been seen with other herpes viruses in other species. Ocular inflammation is not uncommonly seen in Asian elephants. Degenerate PCR primers targeting a conserved region of herpes virus DNA-dependent DNA polymerase2 were used to amplify products from eye swabs of eight Asian elephants with epiphora, blepharitis, and conjunctivitis. Nucleotide sequencing of the PCR products showed two novel herpes viruses distinct from EEHV. Comparative sequence analysis shows that these viruses are probable members of the subfamily Gammaherpesvirinae. The sequence phylogeny of these viruses has implications for both viral and host evolution. Further understanding and characterization of these viruses is needed to understand their role in elephant health.

Literature Cited

1.  Richman LK, Montali RJ, Garber RL, Kennedy MA, Lehnhardt J, Hildebrandt T, et al. Novel endotheliotropic herpes viruses fatal for Asian and African elephants. Science. 1999;283:1093–1094.

2.  VanDevanter DR, Warrener P, Bennett L, Schultz ER, Coulter S, Garber RL, Rose TM. 1996. Detection and analysis of diverse herpes viral species by consensus primer PCR. J Clin Microbiol. 34:16661671.


Speaker Information
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James F.X. Wellehan, DVM, MS, DACZM
Zoological Medicine Service
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, USA

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