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Vet Pathol. 2013 Sep;50(5):914-20. doi: 10.1177/0300985813476060. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Fatal combined infection with canine distemper virus and orthopoxvirus in a group of Asian marmots (Marmota caudata).

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DVM, PhD, DACVM, DACVP, Centre for Fish and Wildlife Health (FIWI), Institute of Animal Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern; Laenggassstrasse 122, 3012 Bern, Switzerland. Email:


A fatal combined infection with canine distemper virus (CDV) and orthopoxvirus (OPXV) in Asian marmots (Marmota caudata) is reported in this article. A total of 7 Asian marmots from a small zoological garden in Switzerland were found dead in hibernation during a routine check in the winter of 2011. The marmots died in February 2011. No clinical signs of disease were observed at any time. The viruses were detected in all individuals for which the tissues were available (n = 3). Detection of the viruses was performed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. The most consistent gross lesion was a neck and thorax edema. A necrotizing pharyngitis and a multifocal necrotizing pneumonia were observed histologically. Numerous large intracytoplasmic eosinophilic inclusions were seen in the epithelial cells of the pharynx, of the airways, and in the skin keratinocytes. Brain lesions were limited to mild multifocal gliosis. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the marmot CDV strain was closely related to the clusters of CDVs detected in Switzerland in wild carnivores during a local outbreak in 2002 and the 2009-2010 nationwide epidemic, suggesting a spillover of this virus from wildlife. The OPXV was most closely related to a strain of cowpoxvirus, a poxvirus species considered endemic in Europe. This is the first reported instance of CDV infection in a rodent species and of a combined CDV and OPXV infection.


distemper; hibernation; marmot; poxvirus; rodent; wildlife

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