• A reservoir species for the emerging amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis thrives in a landscape decimated by disease.

      Reeder, N.M.M.; Pessier, Allan P.; Vredenburg, V.T. (2012)
      Chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is driving amphibian declines and extinctions in protected areas globally. The introduction of invasive reservoir species has been implicated in the spread of Bd but does not explain the appearance of the pathogen in remote protected areas. In the high elevation (>1500 m) Sierra Nevada of California, the native Pacific chorus frog, Pseudacris regilla, appears unaffected by chytridiomycosis while sympatric species experience catastrophic declines. We investigated whether P. regilla is a reservoir of Bd by comparing habitat occupancy before and after a major Bd outbreak and measuring infection in P. regilla in the field, monitoring susceptibility of P. regilla to Bd in the laboratory, examining tissues with histology to determine patterns of infection, and using an innovative soak technique to determine individual output of Bd zoospores in water. Pseudacris regilla persists at 100% of sites where a sympatric species has been extirpated from 72% in synchrony with a wave of Bd. In the laboratory, P. regilla carried loads of Bd as much as an order of magnitude higher than loads found lethal to sympatric species. Histology shows heavy Bd infection in patchy areas next to normal skin, a possible mechanism for tolerance. The soak technique was 77.8% effective at detecting Bd in water and showed an average output of 68 zoospores per minute per individual. The results of this study suggest P. regilla should act as a Bd reservoir and provide evidence of a tolerance mechanism in a reservoir species....
    • Broad host range of SARS-CoV-2 predicted by comparative and structural analysis of ACE2 in vertebrates

      Damas, Joana; Hughes, Graham M.; Keough, Kathleen C.; Painter, Corrie A.; Persky, Nicole S.; Corbo, Marco; Hiller, Michael; Koepfli, Klaus-Peter; Pfenning, Andreas R.; Zhao, Huabin; et al. (2020)
      The novel coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of COVID-19. The main receptor of SARS-CoV-2, angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), is now undergoing extensive scrutiny to understand the routes of transmission and sensitivity in different species. Here, we utilized a unique dataset of ACE2 sequences from 410 vertebrate species, including 252 mammals, to study the conservation of ACE2 and its potential to be used as a receptor by SARS-CoV-2. We designed a five-category binding score based on the conservation properties of 25 amino acids important for the binding between ACE2 and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Only mammals fell into the medium to very high categories and only catarrhine primates into the very high category, suggesting that they are at high risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection. We employed a protein structural analysis to qualitatively assess whether amino acid changes at variable residues would be likely to disrupt ACE2/SARS-CoV-2 spike protein binding and found the number of predicted unfavorable changes significantly correlated with the binding score. Extending this analysis to human population data, we found only rare (frequency <0.001) variants in 10/25 binding sites. In addition, we found significant signals of selection and accelerated evolution in the ACE2 coding sequence across all mammals, and specific to the bat lineage. Our results, if confirmed by additional experimental data, may lead to the identification of intermediate host species for SARS-CoV-2, guide the selection of animal models of COVID-19, and assist the conservation of animals both in native habitats and in human care.
    • Clinical infection of captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) with elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus 4

      Fuery, Angela; Browning, Geoffrey R.; Tan, Jie; Long, Simon; Hayward, Gary S.; Cox, Sherry K.; Flanagan, Joseph P.; Tocidlowski, Maryanne E.; Howard, Lauren L.; Ling, Paul D. (2016)
      Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) can cause lethal hemorrhagic disease in juvenile Asian elephants…. In this brief communication, two cases of EEHV4 infection in juvenile elephants at the Houston Zoo are described, where both cases were resolved following intensive treatment and administration of famciclovir….
    • Clinical trials with itraconazole as a treatment for chytrid fungal infections in amphibians

      Brannelly, L.A.; Richards-Zawacki, C.L.; Pessier, Allan P. (2012)
      Due in large part to recent global declines and extinctions, amphibians are the most threatened vertebrate group. Captive assurance colonies may be the only lifeline for some rapidly disappearing species. Maintaining these colonies free of disease represents a challenge to effective amphibian conservation. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is one of the major contributors to global amphibian declines and also poses a serious threat to captive assurance colonies. Many treatment options for Bd infection have not been experimentally tested and the commonly administered dosages of some drugs are known to have negative side effects, highlighting a need for clinical trials. The objective of this study was to clinically test the drug itraconazole as a method for curing Bd infection. We bathed Bd-positive juveniles of 2 anuran amphibian species, Litoria caerulea and Incilius nebulifer, in aqueous itraconazole, varying the concentration and duration of treatment, to find the combination that caused the fewest side effects while also reliably ridding animals of Bd. Our results suggest that a bath in 0.0025% itraconazole for 5 min d?1 for 6 d reliably cures Bd infection and causes fewer side effects than the longer treatment times and higher concentrations of this drug that are commonly administered.
    • Disseminated coccidoidomycosis in a koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

      Burgdorf-Moisuk, Anne; Stalis, Ilse H.; Pye, Geoffrey W. (2012)
      A16-yr-old male koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) presented for nonspecific signs of illness and weight loss. Despite 2 mo of diagnostics and supportive care, the koala's health declined and euthanasia was elected....
    • Koala retrovirus diversity, transmissibility, and disease associations

      Zheng, HaoQiang; Pan, Yi; Tang, Shaohua; Pye, Geoffrey W.; Stadler, Cynthia K; Vogelnest, Larry; Herrin, Kimberly Vinette; Rideout, Bruce; Switzer, William M. (2020)
      Background Koalas are infected with the koala retrovirus (KoRV) that exists as exogenous or endogenous viruses. KoRV is genetically diverse with co-infection with up to ten envelope subtypes (A-J) possible; KoRV-A is the prototype endogenous form. KoRV-B, first found in a small number of koalas with an increased leukemia prevalence at one US zoo, has been associated with other cancers and increased chlamydial disease. To better understand the molecular epidemiology of KoRV variants and the effect of increased viral loads (VLs) on transmissibility and pathogenicity we developed subtype-specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays and tested blood and tissue samples from koalas at US zoos (n=78), two Australian zoos (n=27) and wild-caught (n=21) in Australia. We analyzed PCR results with available clinical, demographic, and pedigree data. Results All koalas were KoRV-A-infected. A small number of koalas (10.3%) at one US zoo were also infected with non-A subtypes, while a higher non-A subtype prevalence (59.3%) was found in koalas at Australian zoos. Wild koalas from one location were only infected with KoRV-A. We observed a significant association of infection and plasma VLs of non-A subtypes in koalas that died of leukemia/lymphoma and other neoplasias and report cancer diagnoses in KoRV-A-positive animals. Infection and VLs of non-A subtypes was not associated with age or sex. Transmission of non-A subtypes occurred from dam-to-offspring and likely following adult-to-adult contact, but associations with contact type were not evaluated. Brief antiretroviral treatment of one leukemic koala infected with high plasma levels of KoRV-A, -B, and -F did not affect VL or disease progression. Conclusions Our results show a significant association of non-A KoRV infection and plasma VLs with leukemia and other
    • Wildlife-microbiome interactions and disease: Exploring opportunities for disease mitigation across ecological scales

      Williams, Candace L.; Caraballo-Rodríguez, Andrés Mauricio; Allaband, Celeste; Zarrinpar, Amir; Knight, Rob; Gauglitz, Julia M. (2018)
      … we will examine how the microbiome influences gastrointestinal disorders, metabolic dysregulation, reproduction, and disease susceptibility in captive wildlife. Investigation of wildlife, and specifically captive wildlife, affords a unique opportunity to gain understanding of the broad diversity of the associated microbiota and learn from nature’s molecular and microbial responses to disease. Studies like these could lead to the discovery of new interventions, ranging from dietary changes to the use of microbes or their natural products as treatment…