"Elephants get herpes too
posted by news on may 3, 2017 - 8:04pm
Elephants also have their own spectrum of herpes viruses, with different elephants carrying different strains.
Asian elephants are carriers of virus types1, 4 and 5, while African elephants carry types 2, 3 and 6. Type 1 is particularly dangerous for young Asian elephants and has led to numerous deaths in the wild and in zoos worldwide. In Switzerland as well, three animals have died of "Elephant Herpes" in the last 30 years. How the elephants transmit the disease, however, and how they become infected, has been largely unknown until now.
"The elephants we examined can be divided into ones that do not shed the virus or only seldom shed it and ones that shed it frequently," says virologist Mathias Ackermann. "The latter are so-called super-shedders which cause the majority of the infections." Super-shedders are known for causing other viral infections among both humans and animals. They themselves are immune to the disease and pass on this immunity to their offspring.
The situation becomes dangerous when a super-shedder comes into contact with the juveniles of non-shedders. An elephant cow which shed the virus most frequently during the study, for example, was in very close contact with all three elephant calves that died of the virus in Switzerland. All calves carried virus sub-type 1A responsible for the deaths, which indicates a shared source of infection.
The dead animals were the offspring of non-shedders, while the progeny of the super-shedder were not affected.
Citation: Ackermann M, Hatt J-M, Schetle N, Steinmetz HP: Identification of Shedders of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesviruses Among Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) in Switzerland. May 3, 2017. PLoS One. DOI: pone.0176891"