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Virus Res. 1999 Sep;63(1-2):135-41.

Isolation and experimental transmission of a reovirus pathogenic in ratsnakes (Elaphe species).

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Department of Pathology, National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20008, USA.


A reovirus was isolated from juvenile Moellendorff's ratsnakes (Elaphe moellendorffi) and beauty snakes (Elaphe taenuris) that died soon after importation into the USA. Viper heart (VH2) cells inoculated with tissue homogenates showed cytopathic effects consisting of large syncytia formation followed by cell detachment from the monolayer. Tissue culture supernatants failed to hemagglutinate guinea pig and chicken erythrocytes at room temperature. Electron microscopy of purified virions revealed spherical to icosahedral particles measuring 70-85 nm in diameter with a double capsid layer. Preparations of the viral genome contained ten segments of dsRNA when analyzed by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. A juvenile black ratsnake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) was experimentally inoculated with the isolate and was found dead 26 days post inoculation. Necropsy revealed diffuse subacute interstitial pneumonia with respiratory epithelial cell hyperplasia and syncytia. Reovirus isolated from this snake was used to inoculate another juvenile black ratsnake which was euthanized 40 days post inoculation. Pneumonia and multifocal subacute proliferative tracheitis were found on necropsy. Reovirus was isolated from the lung of this snake and was demonstrated by transmission electron microscopy. This is the first documentation of a pathogenic reptile reovirus and the first report of experimental transmission of a reovirus in snakes.

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