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The first reptilian circovirus identified infects gut and liver tissues of black-headed pythons
- Altan, Eda, Kubiski, Steven V., Burchell, Jennifer, Bicknese, Elizabeth, Deng, Xutao, Delwart, Eric
- Veterinary research 2019 v.50 no.1 pp. 35
- Circovirus, Corallus, Morelia, etiology, feces, genome, in situ hybridization, intestines, liver, metagenomics, mucosa, nucleic acids, pathogenicity, polymerase chain reaction, snakes, viruses
- Viral metagenomic analysis of the liver of a black headed python (Aspidites melanocephalus) euthanized for a proliferative spinal lesion of unknown etiology yielded the first characterized genome of a reptile-infecting circovirus (black-headed python circovirus or BhPyCV). BhPyCV-specific in situ hybridization (ISH) showed that viral nucleic acids were strongly expressed in the intestinal lining and mucosa and multifocally in the liver. To investigate the presence of this virus in other snakes and its possible pathogenicity, 17 snakes in the python family with spinal disease were screened with ISH yielding a second BhP positive in intestinal tissue, and a Boelen’s python (Morelia boeleni) positive in the liver. BhPyCV specific PCR was used to screen available frozen tissues from 13 of these pythons, four additional deceased pythons with and without spinal disease, and fecal samples from 37 live snakes of multiple species with unknown disease status. PCR detected multiple positive tissues in both of the ISH positive BhP and in the feces of another two live BhP and two live annulated tree boas (Corallus annulatus). Preliminary analysis indicates this circovirus can infect BhPs where it was found in 4/5 BhPs tested (2/2 with spinal disease, 2/3 live with unknown status), Boelen’s python (1/2 with spinal disease), and annulated tree boa (2/6 live with unknown status) but was not detected in other python species with the same spinal lesions. This circovirus’ causal or contributory role in spinal disease remains speculative and not well supported by these initial data.