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A novel herpesvirus detected in 3 different species of chelonians

April 22, 2022

Herpesviruses are found in free-living and captive chelonian populations, often in association with morbidity and mortality. To date, all known chelonian herpesviruses fall within the subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae. We detected a novel herpesvirus in 3 species of chelonians: a captive leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) in western TX, USA; a steppe tortoise (Testudo [Agrionemys] horsfieldii) found near Fort Irwin, CA, USA; and 2 free-living, three-toed box turtles (Terrapene mexicana triunguis) found in Forest Park, St. Louis, MO. The leopard tortoise was coinfected with the tortoise intranuclear coccidian and had clinical signs of upper respiratory tract disease. The steppe tortoise had mucopurulent nasal discharge and lethargy. One of the three-toed box turtles had no clinical signs; the other was found dead with signs of trauma after being observed with blepharedema, tympanic membrane swelling, cervical edema, and other clinical signs several weeks prior to death. Generally, the branching order of the turtle herpesviruses mirrors the divergence patterns of their hosts, consistent with codivergence. Based on phylogenetic analysis, this novel herpesvirus clusters with a clade of viruses that infect emydid hosts and is likely of box turtle origin. Therefore, we suggest the name terrapene alphaherpesvirus 3 (TerAHV3) for the novel virus. This virus also has the ability to host-jump to tortoises, and previously documented herpesviral morbidity tends to be more common in aberrant hosts. The relationship between clinical signs and infection with TerAHV3 in these animals is unclear, and further investigation is merited.

Publication Year 2022
Title A novel herpesvirus detected in 3 different species of chelonians
DOI 10.1177/10406387221092048
Authors John M. Winter, James F. X. Wellehan, Kathleen Apakupakul, Jamie Palmer, Maris Brenn-White, Kali Standorf, Kristin H. Berry, April L. Childress, Pete Koplos, Michael M. Garner, Sharon L. Deem
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Index ID 70241565
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center