Investigations into the presence of nidoviruses in pythons
BACKGROUND:Pneumonia and stomatitis represent severe and often fatal diseases in different captive snakes. Apart from bacterial infections, paramyxo-, adeno-, reo- and arenaviruses cause these diseases. In 2014, new viruses emerged as the cause of pneumonia in pythons. In a few publications, nidoviruses have been reported in association with pneumonia in ball pythons and a tiger python. The viruses were found using new sequencing methods from the organ tissue of dead animals. METHODS:Severe pneumonia and stomatitis resulted in a high mortality rate in a captive breeding collection of green tree pythons. Unbiased deep sequencing lead to the detection of nidoviral sequences. A developed RT-qPCR was used to confirm the metagenome results and to determine the importance of this virus. A total of 1554 different boid snakes, including animals suffering from respiratory diseases as well as healthy controls, were screened for nidoviruses. Furthermore, in addition to two full-length sequences, partial sequences were generated from different snake species. RESULTS:The assembled full-length snake nidovirus genomes share only an overall genome sequence identity of less than 66.9% to other published snake nidoviruses and new partial sequences vary between 99.89 and 79.4%. Highest viral loads were detected in lung samples. The snake nidovirus was not only present in diseased animals, but also in snakes showing no typical clinical signs. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings further highlight the possible importance of snake nidoviruses in respiratory diseases and proof multiple circulating strains with varying disease potential. Nidovirus detection in clinical healthy individuals might represent testing during the incubation period or reconvalescence. Our investigations show new aspects of nidovirus infections in pythons. Nidoviruses should be included in routine diagnostic workup of diseased reptiles.