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
Mortality rates have differed during distemper outbreaks among free-ranging raccoons (Procyon lotor) living around a large Chicago-area zoo, and appeared higher in year 2001 than in 1998 and 2000. We hypothesized that a more lethal variant of the local Canine distemper virus (CDV) lineage had emerged in 2001, and sought the genetic basis that led to increased virulence. However, a more complex model surfaced during preliminary analyses of CDV genomic sequences in infected tissues and of virus isolated in vitro from the raccoons.
Phylogenetic analyses of subgenomic CDV fusion (F) -, phosphoprotein (P) -, and complete hemagglutinin (H) – gene sequences indicated that distinct American CDV lineages caused the distemper epizootics. The 1998 outbreak was caused by viruses that are likely from an old CDV lineage that includes CDV Snyder Hill and Lederle, which are CDV strains from the early 1950's. The 2000 and 2001 viruses appear to stem from the lineage of CDV A75/17, which was isolated in the mid 1970's. Only the 2001 viruses formed large syncytia in brain and/or lung tissue, and during primary isolation in-vitro in Vero cells, demonstrating at least one phenotypic property by which they differed from the other viruses.
Two different American CDV lineages caused the raccoon distemper outbreaks. The 1998 viruses are genetically distant to the 2000/2001 viruses. Since CDV does not cause persistent infections, the cycling of different CDV lineages within the same locale suggests multiple reintroductions of the virus to area raccoons. Our findings establish a precedent for determining whether the perceived differences in mortality rates are actual and attributable in part to inherent differences between CDV strains arising from different CDV lineages.
Analyses of the dynamics of diseases in wild populations typically assume all individuals to be identical. However, profound effects on the long-term impact on the host population can be expected if the disease has age and sex dependent dynamics. The Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) caused two mass mortalities in European harbour seals in 1988 and in 2002. We show the mortality patterns were highly age specific on both occasions, where young of the year and adult (>4 yrs) animals suffered extremely high mortality, and sub-adult seals (1–3 yrs) of both sexes experienced low mortality. Consequently, genetic differences cannot have played a main role explaining why some seals survived and some did not in the study region, since parents had higher mortality levels than their progeny. Furthermore, there was a conspicuous absence of animals older than 14 years among the victims in 2002, which strongly indicates that the survivors from the previous disease outbreak in 1988 had acquired and maintained immunity to PDV. These specific mortality patterns imply that contact rates and susceptibility to the disease are strongly age and sex dependent variables, underlining the need for structured epidemic models for wildlife diseases. Detailed data can thus provide crucial information about a number of vital parameters such as functional herd immunity. One of many future challenges in understanding the epidemiology of the PDV and other wildlife diseases is to reveal how immune system responses differ among animals in different stages during their life cycle. The influence of such underlying mechanisms may also explain the limited evidence for abrupt disease thresholds in wild populations.
Extreme climatic conditions may alter historic host-pathogen relationships and synchronize the temporal and spatial convergence of multiple infectious agents, triggering epidemics with far greater mortality than those due to single pathogens. Here we present the first data to clearly illustrate how climate extremes can promote a complex interplay between epidemic and endemic pathogens that are normally tolerated in isolation, but with co-infection, result in catastrophic mortality. A 1994 canine distemper virus (CDV) epidemic in Serengeti lions (Panthera leo) coincided with the death of a third of the population, and a second high-mortality CDV epidemic struck the nearby Ngorongoro Crater lion population in 2001. The extent of adult mortalities was unusual for CDV and prompted an investigation into contributing factors. Serological analyses indicated that at least five “silent” CDV epidemics swept through the same two lion populations between 1976 and 2006 without clinical signs or measurable mortality, indicating that CDV was not necessarily fatal. Clinical and pathology findings suggested that hemoparsitism was a major contributing factor during fatal epidemics. Using quantitative real-time PCR, we measured the magnitude of hemoparasite infections in these populations over 22 years and demonstrated significantly higher levels of Babesia during the 1994 and 2001 epidemics. Babesia levels correlated with mortalities and extent of CDV exposure within prides. The common event preceding the two high mortality CDV outbreaks was extreme drought conditions with wide-spread herbivore die-offs, most notably of Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer). As a consequence of high tick numbers after the resumption of rains and heavy tick infestations of starving buffalo, the lions were infected by unusually high numbers of Babesia, infections that were magnified by the immunosuppressive effects of coincident CDV, leading to unprecedented mortality. Such mass mortality events may become increasingly common if climate extremes disrupt historic stable relationships between co-existing pathogens and their susceptible hosts.
Outbreaks of phocine distemper virus (PDV) in Europe during 1988 and 2002 were responsible for the death of around 23,000 and 30,000 harbour seals, respectively. These epidemics, particularly the one in 2002, provided an unusual opportunity to estimate epidemic parameters for a wildlife disease. There were marked regional differences in the values of some parameters both within and between epidemics.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We used an individual-based model of seal movement that allowed us to incorporate realistic representations of space, time and animal behaviour into a traditional epidemiological modelling framework. We explored the potential influence of a range of ecological (foraging trip duration, time of epidemic onset, population size) and epidemiological (length of infectious period, contact rate between infectious and susceptible individuals, case mortality) parameters on four readily-measurable epidemic characteristics (number of dead individuals, duration of epidemic, peak mortality date and prevalence) and on the probability that an epidemic would occur in a particular region. We analysed the outputs as if they were the results of a series of virtual experiments, using Generalised Linear Modelling. All six variables had a significant effect on the probability that an epidemic would be recognised as an unusual mortality event by human observers.
Regional and temporal variation in contact rate was the most likely cause of the observed differences between the two epidemics. This variation could be a consequence of differences in the way individuals divide their time between land and sea at different times of the year.
Thousands of Caspian seals (Phoca caspica) died in the Caspian Sea from April to August 2000. Lesions characteristic of morbillivirus infection were found in tissue specimens from dead seals. Canine distemper virus infection was identified by serologic examination, reverse transcriptase- polymerase chain reaction, and sequencing of selected P gene fragments. These results implicate canine distemper virus infection as the primary cause of death.
A simple and rapid (24-h) assay for peripheral blood lymphocyte-associated immunity to canine distemper virus (CDV) is described. The test is based upon leukocyte-associated inhibition of CDV-induced syncytia formation in Vero cells. The technique quantitates the response morphologically, thereby eliminating the requirement for release of radiolabeled compounds. Positive results were determined from specific-pathogen-free and gnotobiotic dogs exposed to CDV via hyperimmunization, vaccination with a modified live virus vaccine, and after virulent virus infection. Preinoculation lymphocytes and lymphocytes from non-immune dogs did not inhibit CDV-induced syncytia formation. Maximum responses were observed 7 to 21 days after initial exposure and declined thereafter. The method can be used to further investigate the role of immune lymphocytes in the recovery from CDV infection.
The nucleotide sequences encoding the matrix (M) proteins of measles virus (MV) and canine distemper virus (CDV) were determined from cDNA clones containing these genes in their entirety. In both cases, single open reading frames specifying basic proteins of 335 amino acid residues were predicted from the nucleotide sequences. Both viral messages were composed of approximately 1,450 nucleotides and contained 400 nucleotides of presumptive noncoding sequences at their respective 3' ends. MV and CDV M-protein-coding regions were 67% homologous at the nucleotide level and 76% homologous at the amino acid level. Only chance homology was observed in the 400-nucleotide trailer sequences. Comparisons of the M protein sequences of MV and CDV with the sequence reported for Sendai virus (B. M. Blumberg, K. Rose, M. G. Simona, L. Roux, C. Giorgi, and D. Kolakofsky, J. Virol. 52:656-663; Y. Hidaka, T. Kanda, K. Iwasaki, A. Nomoto, T. Shioda, and H. Shibuta, Nucleic Acids Res. 12:7965-7973) indicated the greatest homology among these M proteins in the carboxyterminal third of the molecule. Secondary-structure analyses of this shared region indicated a structurally conserved, hydrophobic sequence which possibly interacted with the lipid bilayer.
A seroepidemiological survey of canine distemper virus (CDV) infection in Asian felids revealed that the prevalence of antibodies varied depending on region and, in some cases, exposure to dogs. The serologic pattern in cats with antibodies indicated that they had likely been exposed to field strains rather than typical CDV vaccine strains.
The properties of neutralization of antigens of canine distemper virus Onderstepoort and a recent field isolate, KDK-1, were investigated with strain-specific dog sera. A conventional neutralization assay indicated antigenic dissimilarity between the strains; however, when guinea pig complement was included in the reaction mixture, the strains were neutralized with not only the homologous but also the heterologous antibodies.
The fusion (F) proteins of most paramyxoviruses are classical type I glycoproteins with a short hydrophobic leader sequence closely following the translation initiation codon. The predicted reading frame of the canine distemper virus (CDV) F protein is more complex, with a short hydrophobic sequence beginning 115 codons downstream of the first AUG. To verify if the sequence between the first AUG and the hydrophobic region is translated, we produced a specific antiserum that indeed detected a short-lived F protein precursor that we named PreF0. A peptide resulting from PreF0 cleavage was identified and named Pre, and its half-life was measured to be about 30 min. PreF0 cleavage was completed before proteolytic activation of F0 into its F1 and F2 subunits by furin. To test the hypothesis that the Pre peptide may influence protein activity, we compared the function of F proteins synthesized with that peptide to that of F proteins synthesized with a shorter amino-terminal signal sequence. F proteins synthesized with the Pre peptide were more stable and less active. Thus, the Pre peptide modulates the function of the CDV F protein. Interestingly, a distinct two-hit activation process has been recently described for human respiratory syncytial virus, another paramyxovirus.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) infects many carnivores, including ferrets and dogs, and is the member of the Morbillivirus genus most easily amenable to experimentation in a homologous small-animal system. To gain insights into the determinants of CDV pathogenesis, we isolated a strain highly virulent for ferrets by repeated passaging in these animals. Sequence comparison of the genome of this strain with that of its highly attenuated precursor revealed 19 mutations distributed almost evenly in the six genes. We then recovered a virus from a cDNA copy of the virulent CDV strain's consensus sequence by using a modified reverse genetics system based on B cells. We infected ferrets with this virus and showed that it fully retained virulence as measured by the timing of rash appearance, disease onset, and death. Body temperature, leukocyte number, lymphocyte proliferation activity, and cell-associated viremia also had similar kinetics. We then addressed the question of the relative importance of the envelope and other viral constituents for virulence. Viruses in which the envelope genes (matrix, fusion, and hemagglutinin) of the virulent strain were combined with the other genes of the attenuated strain caused severe rash and fever even if the disease onset was delayed. Viruses in which the nucleocapsid, polymerase, and phosphoprotein genes (coding also for the V and C proteins) of the virulent strain were combined with the envelope genes of the attenuated strain caused milder signs of disease. Thus, virulence-inducing mutations have accumulated throughout the genome.
We have previously shown that canine signaling lymphocyte activation molecule (SLAM; also known as CD150) acts as a cellular receptor for canine distemper virus (CDV). In this study, we established Vero cells stably expressing canine SLAM (Vero.DogSLAMtag cells). Viruses were isolated in Vero.DogSLAMtag cells one day after inoculation with spleen samples from five out of seven dogs with distemper. By contrast, virus isolation with reportedly sensitive marmoset B95a cells was only successful from three diseased animals at 7 to 10 days after inoculation, and no virus was recovered from any dogs when Vero cells were used for isolation. The CDV strain isolated in Vero.DogSLAMtag cells did not cause cytopathic effects in B95a and human SLAM-expressing Vero cells, whereas the strain isolated in B95a cells from the same dog did so in canine or human SLAM-expressing Vero cells as well as B95a cells. There were two amino acid differences in the hemagglutinin sequence between these strains. Cell fusion analysis after expression of envelope proteins and vesicular stomatitis virus pseudotype assay showed that their hemagglutinins were responsible for the difference in cell tropism between them. Site-directed mutagenesis indicated that glutamic acid to lysine substitution at position 530 of the hemagglutinin was required for the adaptation to the usage of marmoset SLAM. Our results indicate that Vero cells stably expressing canine SLAM are highly sensitive to CDV in clinical specimens and that only a single amino acid substitution in the hemagglutinin can allow the virus to adapt to marmoset SLAM.
Measles virus (MV) and canine distemper virus (CDV) are morbilliviruses that cause acute illnesses and several persistent central nervous system infections in humans and in dogs, respectively. Characteristically, the cytopathic effect of these viruses is the formation of syncytia in permissive cells. In this study, a vaccinia virus expression system was used to express MV and CDV hemagglutinin (HA) and fusion (F) envelope proteins. We found that cotransfecting F and HA genes of MV or F and HA genes of CDV resulted in extensive syncytium formation in permissive cells while transfecting either F or HA alone did not. Similar experiments with heterologous pairs of proteins, CDV-F with MV-HA or MV-F with CDV-HA, caused significant cell fusion in both cases. These results indicate that in this expression system, cell fusion requires both F and HA; however, the functions of these proteins are interchangeable between the two types of morbilliviruses. Human-mouse somatic hybrids were used to determine the human chromosome conferring susceptibility to either MV and CDV. Of the 12 hybrids screened, none were sensitive to MV. Two of the hybrids containing human chromosome 19 formed syncytia following CDV infection. In addition, these two hybrids underwent cell fusion when cotransfected with CDV-F and CDV-HA (but not MV-F and MV-HA) glycoproteins by using the vaccinia virus expression system. To discover the viral component responsible for cell specificity, complementation experiments coexpressing CDV-HA with MV-F or CDV-F with MV-HA in the CDV-sensitive hybrids were performed. We found that syncytia were formed only in the presence of CDV-HA. These results support the idea that the HA protein is responsible for cell tropism. Furthermore, while the F protein is necessary for the fusion process, it is interchangeable with the F protein from other morbilliviruses.
Canine distemper of domestic dogs is caused by canine distemper virus (CDV), a member of the morbilliviruses. It has been a highly contagious disease of great veterinary importance for centuries, but for the last several decades it has been controlled satisfactorily by modified live vaccines. In the 1990s, however, it was described that CDV strains genetically different from vaccine strains may have caused the disease in vaccinated dogs. The highest antigenic variation is found in the H protein. Therefore, in the present study, hemagglutinin (H) genes obtained from current vaccines and field isolates and amplified directly from clinical specimens were genetically analyzed by restriction fragment length polymorphism assay and sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis of the H-gene amino acid sequences revealed that at least two CDV genotypes are circulating among dogs in Japan; one is a genotype to which almost all Japanese CDV isolates belong and the other has not been previously described. Both are separate and independent from the other lineages or genotypes of vaccine strains, as well as European and U.S. CDV isolates. The results suggest that CDV has also evolved in Japan, and further studies will be needed for an evaluation and possible improvement of the efficacies of current CDV vaccines.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) and measles virus (MV) cause severe illnesses in their respective hosts. The viruses display a characteristic cytopathic effect by forming syncytia in susceptible cells. For CDV, the proficiency of syncytium formation varies among different strains and correlates with the degree of viral attenuation. In this study, we examined the determinants for the differential fusogenicity of the wild-type CDV isolate 5804Han89 (CDV5804), the small- and large-plaque-forming variants of the CDV vaccine strain Onderstepoort (CDVOS and CDVOL, respectively), and the MV vaccine strain Edmonston B (MVEdm). The cotransfection of different combinations of fusion (F) and hemagglutinin (H) genes in Vero cells indicated that the H protein is the main determinant of fusion efficiency. To verify the significance of this observation in the viral context, a reverse genetic system to generate recombinant CDVs was established. This system is based on a plasmid containing the full-length antigenomic sequence of CDVOS. The coding regions of the H proteins of all CDV strains and MVEdm were introduced into the CDV and MV genetic backgrounds, and recombinant viruses rCDV-H5804, rCDV-HOL, rCDV-HEdm, rMV-H5804, rMV-HOL, and rMV-HOS were recovered. Thus, the H proteins of the two morbilliviruses are interchangeable and fully functional in a heterologous complex. This is in contrast with the glycoproteins of other members of the family Paramyxoviridae, which do not function efficiently with heterologous partners. The fusogenicity, growth characteristics, and tropism of the recombinant viruses were examined and compared with those of the parental strains. All these characteristics were found to be predominantly mediated by the H protein regardless of the viral backbone used.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) causes a life-threatening disease in several carnivores including domestic dogs. Recently, we identified a molecule, CD9, a member of the tetraspan transmembrane protein family, which facilitates, and antibodies to which inhibit, the infection of tissue culture cells with CDV (strain Onderstepoort). Here we describe that an anti-CD9 monoclonal antibody (MAb K41) did not interfere with binding of CDV to cells and uptake of virus. In addition, in single-step growth experiments, MAb K41 did not induce differences in the levels of viral mRNA and proteins. However, the virus release of syncytium-forming strains of CDV, the virus-induced cell-cell fusion in lytically infected cultures, and the cell-cell fusion of uninfected with persistently CDV-infected HeLa cells were strongly inhibited by MAb K41. These data indicate that anti-CD9 antibodies selectively block virus-induced cell-cell fusion, whereas virus-cell fusion is not affected.
Natural and immune cytolysis of canine distemper virus (CDV)-infected target cells in vitro is described. Lymphocytes expressing natural cytotoxicity were found in specific-pathogen-free beagle dogs and in beagle-coonhound crosses before vaccination with CDV and indefinitely after vaccination, when the ephemeral immune lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxicity (ILMC) had declined. In contrast to the natural lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxicity, the ILMC was genetically restricted, could not be blocked by CDV-specific antibody, and was effective against measles virus-infected as well as CDV-infectd target cells. Lymphocyte populations were depleted of Fc receptor and surface immunoglobulin-bearing cells by rosetting techniques and tested in comparison. An antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity was demostrated against CDV-infected target cells that were preincubated with CDV antibody when Fc receptor-bearing lymphocytes were not removed. The ILMC was measurable for approximately 10 days beginning at 6 days post-vaccination. In contrast, CDV antibody measured by virus neutralization and humoral cytotoxicity was detectable by 6 days postvaccination and persisted at peak levels for at least 5 months.
In the present study, the immunodepressive effects of canine distemper virus (CDV) infection of dogs on two parameters of lymphocyte function, namely phytomitogen-induced cellular proliferation and skin allograft rejection, were investigated. Infection of susceptible gnotobiotic dogs with virulent R252-CDV resulted in a depression of peripheral blood lymphocyte mitogen response as measured by (3H)thymidine incorporation for up to 10 weeks after inoculation. This effect coincided with the appearance of viral antigen by immunofluorescence in leukocytes but persisted after the virus was no longer detectable. Loss of mitogen reactivity was seen in all infected dogs. However, when these same CDV-infected dogs were challenged with foreign skin allografts, no significant retention of grafts over controls was observed despite the depressed lymphocyte activity. Considering the in vitro and in vivo data it was concluded that, although immunodepressive effects of CDV were demonstrated in vitro, paralled in vivo experiments indicated that less than complete suppression of immune functions occurs during the course of CDV infection.