Lymphoma outbreak in a GASH:Sal hamster colony
We have detected a high incidence of lymphomas in a colony of GASH:Sal Syrian golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). This strain is characterised by its ability to present convulsive crises of audiogenic origin. Almost 16 % (90 males and 60 females) of the 975 animals were affected during a 5-year period by the development of a progressing lymphoid tumour and exhibited similar clinical profiles characterised by lethargy, anorexia, evident abdominal distension, and a rapid disease progression resulting in mortality within 1 to 2 weeks. A TaqMan® probe-based real-time PCR analysis of genomic DNA from different tissue samples of the affected animals revealed the presence of a DNA sequence encoding the hamster polyomavirus (HaPyV) VP1 capsid protein. Additionally, immunohistochemical analysis using HaPyV-VP1-specific monoclonal antibodies confirmed the presence of viral proteins in all hamster tumour tissues analysed within the colony. An indirect ELISA and western blot analysis confirmed the presence of antibodies against the VP1 capsid protein in sera, not only from affected and non-affected GASH:Sal hamsters but also from control hamsters from the same breeding area. The HaPyV genome that accumulated in tumour tissues typically contained deletions affecting the noncoding regulatory region and adjacent sequences coding for the N-terminal part of the capsid protein VP2.