One of the greatest threats to the conservation of wild cat populations may be dogs or, at least, one of their viruses. Canine distemper virus (CDV), a single-stranded RNA virus in the Paramyxoviridae family and genus Morbillivirus, infects and causes disease in a variety of species, not just canids. An outbreak of CDV in wild lions in the Serengeti, Tanzania, in 1994 was a wake-up call for conservationists, as it demonstrated that an infectious disease could swiftly impact a previously healthy felid population. To understand how this virus causes disease in noncanid hosts, researchers have focused on specific mutations in the binding site of the CDV hemagglutinin gene. Now, Seimon et al. provide information on CDV in its latest feline victim, the endangered wild Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) [T. A. Seimon et al., mBio 4(4):e00410-13, 2013, doi:10.1128/mBio.00410-13]. Their findings of CDV strains infecting tigers, in combination with recent information from other felids, paints a different picture, one in which CDV strains from a variety of geographic lineages and with a variety of amino acid residues in the hemagglutinin gene binding site can infect cats and cause disease. Although CDV has been known as a multihost disease since its discovery in domestic dogs in 1905, perhaps it is time to reconsider whether these noncanid species are not just incidental or “spillover” hosts but, rather, a normal part of the complex ecology of this infectious disease.
Reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) was used to detect canine distemper virus (CDV) nucleoprotein (NP) RNA in serum, whole blood, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from 38 dogs with clinically suspected distemper. Results were correlated to clinical findings, anti-CDV neutralizing antibody titers, postmortem findings, and demonstration of CDV NP antigen by immunohistochemistry. The specificity of the RT-PCR was ensured by amplification of RNA from various laboratory CDV strains, restriction enzyme digestion, and Southern blot hybridization. In 29 of 38 dogs, CDV infection was confirmed by postmortem examination and immunohistochemistry. The animals displayed the catarrhal, systemic, and nervous forms of distemper. Seventeen samples (serum, whole blood, or CSF) from dogs with distemper were tested with three sets of primers targeted to different regions of the NP gene of the CDV Onderstepoort strain. Expected amplicons were observed in 82, 53, and 41% of the 17 samples, depending upon the primer pair used. With the most sensitive primer pair (primer pair I), CDV NP RNA was detected in 25 of 29 (86%) serum samples and 14 of 16 (88%) whole blood and CSF samples from dogs with distemper but not in body fluids from immunohistochemically negative dogs. Nucleotide sequence analysis of five RT-PCR amplicons from isolates from the field revealed few silent point mutations. These isolates exhibited greater homology to the Rockborn (97 to 99%) than to the Onderstepoort (95 to 96%) CDV strain. In summary, although the sensitivity of the RT-PCR for detection of CDV is strongly influenced by the location of the selected primers, this nucleic acid detection system represents a highly specific and sensitive method for the antemortem diagnosis of distemper in dogs, regardless of the form of distemper, humoral immune response, and viral antigen distribution.
In the year 1994, the Serengeti lion population was decimated by a canine distemper disease outbreak. Retrospective investigations showed that this host population had already been in contact with the pathogen in 1981 without any detected sign of disease. As an alternative to the virus mutation hypothesis to explain this difference in virulences observed in 1981 and 1994, we propose a novel mechanism of disease emergence based on variation in population immunity. We use a stochastic model to show that stochastic fluctuations in pathogen circulation, owing to a low probability of virus transmission from its reservoir to the target host and thereby resulting in variations in the global immunity level of the target host population, can explain the observations made in Serengeti. This mechanism may also be involved in other infectious disease emergences or re-emergences.
canine distemper virus; lion Panthera leo; stochastic model; population immunity level; infectious disease re-emergence
To characterize the importance of infection of epithelial cells for morbillivirus pathogenesis, we took advantage of the severe disease caused by canine distemper virus (CDV) in ferrets. To obtain a CDV that was unable to enter epithelial cells but retained the ability to enter immune cells, we transferred to its attachment (H) protein two mutations shown to interfere with the interaction of measles virus H with its epithelial receptor, human nectin-4. As expected for an epithelial receptor (EpR)-blind CDV, this virus infected dog and ferret epithelial cells inefficiently and did not cause cell fusion or syncytium formation. On the other hand, the EpR-blind CDV replicated in cells expressing canine signaling lymphocyte activation molecule (SLAM), the morbillivirus immune cell receptor, with similar kinetics to those of wild-type CDV. While ferrets infected with wild-type CDV died within 12 days after infection, after developing severe rash and fever, animals infected with the EpR-blind virus showed no clinical signs of disease. Nevertheless, both viruses spread rapidly and efficiently in immune cells, causing similar levels of leukopenia and inhibition of lymphocyte proliferation activity, two indicators of morbillivirus immunosuppression. Infection was documented for airway epithelia of ferrets infected with wild-type CDV but not for those of animals infected with the EpR-blind virus, and only animals infected with wild-type CDV shed virus. Thus, epithelial cell infection is necessary for clinical disease and efficient virus shedding but not for immunosuppression.
Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV), which is a member of the Morbillivirus genus, Paramyxoviridae family. Animals that most commonly suffer from this disease belong to the Canidae family; however, the spectrum of natural hosts for CDV also includes several other families of the order Carnivora. The infectious disease presents worldwide distribution and maintains a high incidence and high levels of lethality, despite the availability of effective vaccines, and no specific treatment. CDV infection in dogs is characterized by the presentation of systemic and/or neurological courses, and viral persistence in some organs, including the central nervous system (CNS) and lymphoid tissues. An elucidation of the pathogenic mechanisms involved in canine distemper disease will lead to a better understanding of the injuries and clinical manifestations caused by CDV. Ultimately, further insight about this disease will enable the improvement of diagnostic methods as well as therapeutic studies.
Theoretically, homogeneous environments favor the evolution of specialists whereas heterogeneous environments favor generalists. Canine distemper is a multi-host carnivore disease caused by canine distemper virus (CDV). The described cell receptor of CDV is SLAM (CD150). Attachment of CDV hemagglutinin protein (CDV-H) to this receptor facilitates fusion and virus entry in cooperation with the fusion protein (CDV-F). We investigated whether CDV strains co-evolved in the large, homogeneous domestic dog population exhibited specialist traits, and strains adapted to the heterogeneous environment of smaller populations of different carnivores exhibited generalist traits. Comparison of amino acid sequences of the SLAM binding region revealed higher similarity between sequences from Canidae species than to sequences from other carnivore families. Using an in vitro assay, we quantified syncytia formation mediated by CDV-H proteins from dog and non-dog CDV strains in cells expressing dog, lion or cat SLAM. CDV-H proteins from dog strains produced significantly higher values with cells expressing dog SLAM than with cells expressing lion or cat SLAM. CDV-H proteins from strains of non-dog species produced similar values in all three cell types, but lower values in cells expressing dog SLAM than the values obtained for CDV-H proteins from dog strains. By experimentally changing one amino acid (Y549H) in the CDV-H protein of one dog strain we decreased expression of specialist traits and increased expression of generalist traits, thereby confirming its functional importance. A virus titer assay demonstrated that dog strains produced higher titers in cells expressing dog SLAM than cells expressing SLAM of non-dog hosts, which suggested possible fitness benefits of specialization post-cell entry. We provide in vitro evidence for the expression of specialist and generalist traits by CDV strains, and fitness trade-offs across carnivore host environments caused by antagonistic pleiotropy. These findings extend knowledge on CDV molecular epidemiology of particular relevance to wild carnivores.
The propensity of canine distemper virus (CDV) to spread to the central nervous system is one of the primary features of distemper. Therefore, we developed a reverse genetics system based on the neurovirulent Snyder Hill (SH) strain of CDV (CDVSH) and show that this virus rapidly circumvents the blood-brain and blood-cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) barriers to spread into the subarachnoid space to induce dramatic viral meningoencephalitis. The use of recombinant CDVSH (rCDVSH) expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) or red fluorescent protein (dTomato) facilitated the sensitive pathological assessment of routes of virus spread in vivo. Infection of ferrets with these viruses led to the full spectrum of clinical signs typically associated with distemper in dogs during a rapid, fatal disease course of approximately 2 weeks. Comparison with the ferret-adapted CDV5804P and the prototypic wild-type CDVR252 showed that hematogenous infection of the choroid plexus is not a significant route of virus spread into the CSF. Instead, viral spread into the subarachnoid space in rCDVSH-infected animals was triggered by infection of vascular endothelial cells and the hematogenous spread of virus-infected leukocytes from meningeal blood vessels into the subarachnoid space. This resulted in widespread infection of cells of the pia and arachnoid mater of the leptomeninges over large areas of the cerebral hemispheres. The ability to sensitively assess the in vivo spread of a neurovirulent strain of CDV provides a novel model system to study the mechanisms of virus spread into the CSF and the pathogenesis of acute viral meningitis.
During the vaccination campaigns, puppies younger than 3 months old are not targeted and remain unvaccinated for at least the first year of their lives. Almost half of the reported rabid dogs are 6 months or younger. Hence, we should recommend the vaccination against rabies of young puppies. Unfortunately, owing to the exposure of puppies to infections with either canine parvovirus (CPV) or distemper virus (CDV) after the intervention of the vaccinators, owners are reluctant to vaccinate puppies against rabies. Therefore, it is necessary to include the CPV and CDV valences in the vaccine against rabies. Multivalent DNA-based vaccination in dogs, including rabies and distemper valences, could help in raising vaccine coverage.
We have designed monovalent and multivalent DNA-based vaccine candidates for in vitro and in vivo assays. These plasmids encode to the rabies virus glycoprotein and/or the canine distemper virus hemagglutinin. The first strategy of multivalent DNA-based vaccination is by mixing plasmids encoding to a single antigen each. The second is by simply fusing the genes of the antigens together. The third is by adding the foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) 2A oligopeptide gene into the antigen genes. The last strategy is by the design and use of a bicistronic plasmid with an “Internal Ribosome Entry Site” (IRES) domain.
The monovalent construct against canine distemper was efficiently validated by inducing higher humoral immune responses compared to cell-culture-derived vaccine both in mice and dogs. All multivalent plasmids efficiently expressed both valences after in vitro transfection of BHK-21 cells. In BALB/c mice, the bicistronic IRES-dependant construct was the most efficient inducer of virus-neutralizing antibodies against both valences. It was able to induce better humoral immune responses compared to the administration of either cell-culture-derived vaccines or monovalent plasmids. The FMDV 2A was also efficient in the design of multivalent plasmids.
In a single shot, the design of efficient multivalent plasmids will be very beneficial for DNA-based vaccination against numerous diseases.
Rabies; CDV; DNA Vaccine; Multivalent; Public health; Zoonose
A new strain of canine distemper virus, HLJ1-06, has been isolated from foxes in China, and its complete genome has been sequenced and analyzed. The phylogenetic analysis suggests that HLJ1-06 belongs to the Asia-1 cluster and has low identity to the vaccine strain.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) uses signaling lymphocyte activation molecule (SLAM), expressed on immune cells, as a receptor. However, epithelial and neural cells are also affected by CDV in vivo. Wild-type CDV strains showed efficient replication with syncytia in Vero cells expressing dog nectin4, and the infection was blocked by an anti-nectin4 antibody. In dogs with distemper, CDV antigen was preferentially detected in nectin4-positive neurons and epithelial cells, suggesting that nectin4 is an epithelial cell receptor for CDV and also involved in its neurovirulence.
The objective of this study was to determine whether post-vaccination antibody titers vary according to body weight in adult dogs. Antibody titers against canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2), canine distemper virus (CDV), and canine adenovirus type 1 (CAdV-1) were measured for 978 domestic adult dogs from 2 to 6 y of age. The dogs had been vaccinated approximately 12 mo earlier with a commercial combination vaccine. The dogs were divided into groups according to their weight. It was found that mean antibody titers in all weight groups were sufficient to prevent infection. Intergroup comparison, however, revealed that CPV-2 antibody titers were significantly higher in the Super Light (< 5 kg) group than in the Medium (10 to 19.9 kg) and Heavy (> 20 kg) groups and were also significantly higher in the Light (5 to 9.9 kg) group than in the Heavy group. Antibody titers against CDV were significantly higher in the Super Light, Light, and Medium groups than in the Heavy group. There were no significant differences among the groups for the CAdV-1 antibody titers.
Canine distemper virus (CDV), a close relative of measles virus (MV), is widespread and well known for its broad host range. When the goal of measles eradication may be achieved, and when measles vaccination will be stopped, CDV might eventually cross the species barrier to humans and emerge as a new human pathogen. In order to get an impression how fast such alterations may occur, we characterized required adaptive mutations to the human entry receptors CD150 (SLAM) and nectin-4 as first step to infect human target cells. Recombinant wild-type CDV-A75/17red adapted quickly to growth in human H358 epithelial cells expressing human nectin-4. Sequencing of the viral attachment proteins (hemagglutinin, H, and fusion protein, F) genes revealed that no adaptive alteration was required to utilize human nectin-4. In contrast, the virus replicated only to low titres (102 pfu/ml) in Vero cells expressing human CD150 (Vero-hSLAM). After three passages using these cells virus was adapted to human CD150 and replicated to high titres (105 pfu/ml). Sequence analyses revealed that only one amino acid exchange in the H-protein at position 540 Asp→Gly (D540G) was required for functional adaptation to human CD150. Structural modelling suggests that the adaptive mutation D540G in H reflects the sequence alteration from canine to human CD150 at position 70 and 71 from Pro to Leu (P70L) and Gly to Glu (G71E), and compensates for the gain of a negative charge in the human CD150 molecule. Using this model system our data indicate that only a minimal alteration, in this case one adaptive mutation, is required for adaptation of CDV to the human entry receptors, and help to understand the molecular basis why this adaptive mutation occurs.
Since 2006 the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) population in north-eastern Italy has experienced an epidemic of canine distemper virus (CDV). Additionally, in 2008, after a thirteen-year absence from Italy, fox rabies was re-introduced in the Udine province at the national border with Slovenia. Disease intervention strategies are being developed and implemented to control rabies in this area and minimise risk to human health. Here we present empirical data and the epidemiological picture relating to these epidemics in the period 2006–2010. Of important significance for epidemiological studies of wild animals, basic mathematical models are developed to exploit information collected from the surveillance program on dead and/or living animals in order to assess the incidence of infection. These models are also used to estimate the rate of transmission of both diseases and the rate of vaccination, while correcting for a bias in early collection of CDV samples. We found that the rate of rabies transmission was roughly twice that of CDV, with an estimated effective contact between infected and susceptible fox leading to a new infection occurring once every 3 days for rabies, and once a week for CDV. We also inferred that during the early stage of the CDV epidemic, a bias in the monitoring protocol resulted in a positive sample being almost 10 times more likely to be collected than a negative sample. We estimated the rate of intake of oral vaccine at 0.006 per day, allowing us to estimate that roughly 68% of the foxes would be immunised. This was confirmed by field observations. Finally we discuss the implications for the eco-epidemiological dynamics of both epidemics in relation to control measures.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) infects a variety of carnivores, including wild and domestic Canidae. In this study, we sequenced and phylogenetic analyses of the hemagglutinin (H) genes from eight canine distemper virus (CDV) isolates obtained from seven raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and a giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in China.
Phylogenetic analysis of the partial hemagglutinin gene sequences showed close clustering for geographic lineages, clearly distinct from vaccine strains and other wild-type foreign CDV strains, all the CDV strains were characterized as Asia-1 genotype and were highly similar to each other (91.5-99.8% nt and 94.4-99.8% aa). The giant panda and raccoon dogs all were 549Y on the HA protein in this study, irrespective of the host species.
These findings enhance our knowledge of the genetic characteristics of Chinese CDV isolates, and may facilitate the development of effective strategies for monitoring and controlling CDV for wild canids and non-cainds in China.
Canine distemper virus; Haemagglutinin (H) gene; Genotype; Phylogenetic analysis
In 1988 and 2002, two major phocine distemper virus (PDV) outbreaks occurred in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in north-western European coastal waters, causing the death of tens of thousands seals. Here we investigated whether PDV is still circulating among seals of the Dutch coastal waters and whether seals have protective serum-antibodies against PDV. Therefore seal serum samples, collected from 2002 to 2012, were tested for the presence of PDV-neutralizing antibodies. Antibodies were detected in most seals in 2002 and 2003 while after 2003 antibodies were detected only in seals less than two month-old and adult seals that probably had survived the 2002 PDV-epizootic. We estimated the current proportion of seals with antibodies against PDV at 11%. These findings suggest that at present the vast majority of seals are not immune to PDV infection. PDV re-introduction in this area may cause a major epizootic with infection of >80% and mass-mortality of >50% of the population.
phocine distemper virus; seals; serology; epizootic
Canine distemper virus (CDV; Paramyxoviridae, Morbillivirus) is the etiologic agent of a multisystemic infectious disease affecting all terrestrial carnivore families with high incidence and mortality in domestic dogs. Sequence analysis of the hemagglutinin (H) gene has been widely employed to characterize field strains, permitting the identification of nine CDV lineages worldwide. Recently, it has been established that the sequences of the fusion protein signal-peptide (Fsp) coding region are extremely variable, suggesting that analysis of its sequence might be useful for strain characterization studies. However, the divergence of Fsp sequences among worldwide strains and its phylogenetic resolution has not yet been evaluated. We constructed datasets containing the Fsp-coding region and H gene sequences of the same strains belonging to eight CDV lineages. Both datasets were used to evaluate their phylogenetic resolution. The phylogenetic analysis revealed that both datasets clustered the same strains into eight different branches, corresponding to CDV lineages. The inter-lineage amino acid divergence was fourfold greater for the Fsp peptide than for the H protein. The likelihood mapping revealed that both datasets display strong phylogenetic signals in the region of well-resolved topologies. These features indicate that Fsp-coding region sequence analysis is suitable for evolutionary studies as it allows for straightforward identification of CDV lineages.
A new strain of canine distemper virus, CDV-PS, has been isolated from dogs in China, and its complete genome has been sequenced and analyzed. The phylogenetic analysis suggests that CDV-PS belongs to the Asia-1 cluster and has low identity to the vaccine strain.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) has recently expanded its host range to nonhuman primates. A large CDV outbreak occurred in rhesus monkeys at a breeding farm in Guangxi Province, China, in 2006, followed by another outbreak in rhesus monkeys at an animal center in Beijing in 2008. In 2008 in Japan, a CDV outbreak also occurred in cynomolgus monkeys imported from China. In that outbreak, 46 monkeys died from severe pneumonia during a quarantine period. A CDV strain (CYN07-dV) was isolated in Vero cells expressing dog signaling lymphocyte activation molecule (SLAM). Phylogenic analysis showed that CYN07-dV was closely related to the recent CDV outbreaks in China, suggesting continuing chains of CDV infection in monkeys. In vitro, CYN07-dV uses macaca SLAM and macaca nectin4 as receptors as efficiently as dog SLAM and dog nectin4, respectively. CYN07-dV showed high virulence in experimentally infected cynomolgus monkeys and excreted progeny viruses in oral fluid and feces. These data revealed that some of the CDV strains, like CYN07-dV, have the potential to cause acute systemic infection in monkeys.
Phocine distemper virus (PDV) was identified as the cause of a large morbillivirus outbreak among harbor seals in the North Sea in 1988. PDV is a member of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Morbillivirus. Until now, no full-genome sequence of PDV has been available.
Old World frugivorous bats have been identified as natural hosts for emerging zoonotic viruses of significant public health concern, including henipaviruses (Nipah and Hendra virus), Ebola virus, and Marburg virus. Epidemiological studies of these viruses in bats often utilize serology to describe viral dynamics, with particular attention paid to juveniles, whose birth increases the overall susceptibility of the population to a viral outbreak once maternal immunity wanes. However, little is understood about bat immunology, including the duration of maternal antibodies in neonates. Understanding duration of maternally derived immunity is critical for characterizing viral dynamics in bat populations, which may help assess the risk of spillover to humans. We conducted two separate studies of pregnant Pteropus bat species and their offspring to measure the half-life and duration of antibodies to 1) canine distemper virus antigen in vaccinated captive Pteropus hypomelanus; and 2) Hendra virus in wild-caught, naturally infected Pteropus alecto. Both of these pteropid bat species are known reservoirs for henipaviruses. We found that in both species, antibodies were transferred from dam to pup. In P. hypomelanus pups, titers against CDV waned over a mean period of 228.6 days (95% CI: 185.4–271.8) and had a mean terminal phase half-life of 96.0 days (CI 95%: 30.7–299.7). In P. alecto pups, antibodies waned over 255.13 days (95% CI: 221.0–289.3) and had a mean terminal phase half-life of 52.24 days (CI 95%: 33.76–80.83). Each species showed a duration of transferred maternal immunity of between 7.5 and 8.5 months, which was longer than has been previously estimated. These data will allow for more accurate interpretation of age-related Henipavirus serological data collected from wild pteropid bats.
Fewer than 500 Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) remain in the wild. Due to low numbers and their solitary and reclusive nature, tiger sightings across their range in the Russian Far East and China are rare; sightings of sick tigers are rarer still. Serious neurologic disease observed in several wild tigers since 2001 suggested disease emergence in this endangered species. To investigate this possibility, histology, immunohistochemistry (IHC), in situ hybridization (ISH), and reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) were performed on tissues from 5 affected tigers that died or were destroyed in 2001, 2004, or 2010. Our results reveal canine distemper virus (CDV) infection as the cause of neurologic disease in two tigers and definitively establish infection in a third. Nonsuppurative encephalitis with demyelination, eosinophilic nuclear viral inclusions, and positive immunolabeling for CDV by IHC and ISH were present in the two tigers with available brain tissue. CDV phosphoprotein (P) and hemagglutinin (H) gene products were obtained from brains of these two tigers by RT-PCR, and a short fragment of CDV P gene sequence was detected in lymph node tissue of a third tiger. Phylogenetically, Amur tiger CDV groups with an Arctic-like strain in Baikal seals (Phoca siberica). Our results, which include mapping the location of positive tigers and recognition of a cluster of cases in 2010, coupled with a lack of reported CDV antibodies in Amur tigers prior to 2000 suggest wide geographic distribution of CDV across the tiger range and recent emergence of CDV as a significant infectious disease threat to endangered Amur tigers in the Russian Far East.
Recognition of disease emergence in wildlife is a rare occurrence. Here, for the first time, we identify and characterize a canine distemper virus (CDV), the second most common cause of infectious disease death in domestic dogs and a viral disease of global importance in common and endangered carnivores, as the etiology of neurologic disease and fatal encephalitis in wild, endangered Amur tigers. We establish that in 2010 CDV directly or indirectly killed ~1% of Amur tigers. Location of positive cases over an expansive geographic area suggests that CDV is widely distributed across the tiger range. Interspecies interactions are increasing as human populations grow and expand into wildlife habitats. Identifying animal reservoirs for CDV and identifying the CDV strains that are transmissible to and among wildlife species, including Amur tigers and sympatric critically endangered Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis), is essential for guiding conservation and mitigation efforts.
A canine distemper virus (CDV) strain, CYN07-dV, associated with a lethal outbreak in monkeys, used human signaling lymphocyte activation molecule as a receptor only poorly but readily adapted to use it following a P541S substitution in the hemagglutinin protein. Since CYN07-dV had an intrinsic ability to use human nectin-4, the adapted virus became able to use both human immune and epithelial cell receptors, as well as monkey and canine ones, suggesting that CDV can potentially infect humans.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) becomes able to use human receptors through a single amino acid substitution in the H protein. In addition, CDV strains possessing an intact C protein replicate well in human epithelial H358 cells. The present study showed that CDV strain 007Lm, which was isolated from lymph node tissue of a dog with distemper, failed to replicate in H358 cells, although it possessed an intact C protein. Sequence analyses suggested that a cysteine-to-tyrosine substitution at position 267 of the V protein caused this growth defect. Analyses using H358 cells constitutively expressing the CDV V protein showed that the V protein with a cysteine, but not that with a tyrosine, at this position effectively blocked the interferon-stimulated signal transduction pathway, and supported virus replication of 007Lm in H358 cells. Thus, the V protein as well as the C protein appears to be functional and essential for CDV replication in human epithelial cells.
A major outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) in Danish farmed mink (Neovison vison) started in the late summer period of 2012. At the same time, a high number of diseased and dead wildlife species such as foxes, raccoon dogs, and ferrets were observed. To track the origin of the outbreak virus full-length sequencing of the receptor binding surface protein hemagglutinin (H) was performed on 26 CDV's collected from mink and 10 CDV's collected from wildlife species. Subsequent phylogenetic analyses showed that the virus circulating in the mink farms and wildlife were highly identical with an identity at the nucleotide level of 99.45% to 100%. The sequences could be grouped by single nucleotide polymorphisms according to geographical distribution of mink farms and wildlife. The signaling lymphocytic activation molecule (SLAM) receptor binding region in most viruses from both mink and wildlife contained G at position 530 and Y at position 549; however, three mink viruses had an Y549H substitution. The outbreak viruses clustered phylogenetically in the European lineage and were highly identical to wildlife viruses from Germany and Hungary (99.29% – 99.62%). The study furthermore revealed that fleas (Ceratophyllus sciurorum) contained CDV and that vertical transmission of CDV occurred in a wild ferret. The study provides evidence that wildlife species, such as foxes, play an important role in the transmission of CDV to farmed mink and that the virus may be maintained in the wild animal reservoir between outbreaks.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) infection is a primary threat affecting a wide number of carnivore species, including wild animals. In January 2013, two carcasses of Apennine wolves (Canis lupus) were collected in Ortona dei Marsi (L'Aquila province, Italy) by the local Veterinary Services. CDV was immediately identified either by RT-PCR or immunohistochemistry in lung and central nervous tissue samples. At the same time, severe clinical signs consistent with CDV infection were identified and taped (Videos S1–S3) from three wolves rescued in the areas surrounding the National Parks of the Abruzzi region by the Veterinary Services. The samples collected from these symptomatic animals also turned out CDV positive by RT-PCR. So far, 30 carcasses of wolves were screened and CDV was detected in 20 of them. The sequencing of the haemagglutinin gene and subsequent phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that the identified virus belonged to the CDV Arctic lineage. Strains belonging to this lineage are known to circulate in Italy and in Eastern Europe amongst domestic dogs. To the best of our knowledge this is the first report of CDV Arctic lineage epidemics in the wild population in Europe.