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Vet Microbiol. 2012 May 4;156(3-4):418-24. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2011.11.013. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Identification of a novel nidovirus associated with a neurological disease of the Australian brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula).

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Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


A novel, fatal neurological disease of the Australian brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) was first identified in 1995 in a research facility and subsequently in free-living possums in New Zealand and termed wobbly possum disease (WPD). The results of previous transmission studies suggested that the aetiological agent of WPD is most likely a virus. However, the identity of the presumed viral agent had not been elucidated. In the current report, we describe identification of a novel virus from tissues of WPD-affected possums using a combination of next generation sequencing and traditional molecular methods. The proportion of possums positive for the novel virus by PCR was significantly higher (p<0.0001) among animals with WPD than clinically healthy possums, strongly suggesting an aetiological involvement of the virus in WPD. Analysis of the partial genomic sequence of the putative WPD virus indicated that it is a novel nidovirus, most closely related to the current members of the family Arteriviridae.

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