New deadly, highly contagious Ebola family virus found in snakes

August 15, 2012NATURE The cause of a fatal illness that affects captive snakes has been identified, a study has shown. The condition – called Inclusion Body Disease (IBD) – affects constrictor snakes including boas and pythons. There is no treatment and symptoms include “stargazing” – a fixed upward stare – as well as breathing problems and general muscular paralysis. Snakes tie themselves in knots they can’t get out of and they die. It was long suspected that the disease was caused by a virus, but until recently its identity remained elusive. The research is published in the open-access journal mBio. In amongst some of the snake DNA was foreign genetic material – nucleic acid – that closely resembled that present in viruses belonging to a family called arenaviruses. This family includes Lassa Fever virus, which is associated with haemorrhagic fever in humans. However, there is no evidence that the newly discovered virus can pass from snakes to humans. The genetic analyses also revealed that one of the genes in the newly isolated virus group was more like that present in viruses belonging to a totally different family of haemorrhagic viruses called filoviruses. Ebolavirus belongs to this family. In this breakthrough study, researchers from the University of California San Francisco analysed samples obtained from snakes diagnosed with IBD, using sensitive DNA sequencing techniques. Professor Jim Wellehan from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, who authored the paramyxovirus study, said: “The epidemiology of the paramyxoviruses is different [to IBD]. These are hot agents that snakes die quickly from, and it works fast. You have a room full of dead snakes in a week.” It is uncertain how the highly contagious IBD virus is spread. One possibility is that transmission occurs through inhalation – either directly from another infected snake or indirectly from contaminated bedding or following handling. Alternatively, mites – often found in colonies suffering from an IBD outbreak – might be implicated. So far the disease seems to be restricted to captive snakes but some scientists are worried that the release of captive bred or rehabilitated snakes might unwittingly unleash this devastating virus into the wild. –BBC
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15 Responses to New deadly, highly contagious Ebola family virus found in snakes

  1. suez says:

    Oh, boo hoo snakes are dying…


    • Bobi says:

      Being this virus is only found in captive snakes must tell us something. HUMANS, leave the snakes in their native habitat. Had the human race left well enough alone, we would not have the problem in the everglades, but no, humans have to destroy and/or disturb. Another case in point for the human race, lowest form of life on this earth.


      • geebee says:

        I’m with you on this. It bothers me that the Everglades now has an unmanageable population of boas and pythons because people let them loose when they couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of them as pets. I think it should be illegal to keep anything other than domesticated animals as pets. As much as I hate snakes, I recognize they have a place in the food chain. I leave them alone and try to stay away from any place they might lurk!


      • “The snakes, released into the Florida Everglades by disenchangted pet owners, have nearly taken over the Florida wetlands…and a 100-something pound snake can easily be producing 60 to 80 eggs a year.” –The Extinction Protocol, page 256, 2009

        Well, guess what, Flordia wildlife officials found the largest Burmese python ever (17′ 7) and it was carrying a record 87 eggs. “The snake was pregnant with 87 eggs, also said to be a record. Scientists said the python’s stats show just how pervasive the invasive snakes, which are native to Southeast Asia, have become in South Florida. “It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild,” said Kenneth Krysko, a snake expert at the Florida Museum of Natural History, where the euthanized snake was brought. “‘There’s nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble.” Rob Robins, a biologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said the snakes are very hard to catch, and that since they have established themselves in the Everglades, they will be virtually impossible to eradicate. “I think you’re going to see more and more big snakes like this caught,” he said.

        This thing is already out-of-control and people won’t understand this fully until the system crashes, and everything falls apart, and they are forced into the wild, where many will have to contend with wild and exotic animals in a fight for survival.


      • FoxTrapper says:

        Maybe this is an attempt to “fix” the problem in the Everglades. I find it funny that this is the first mention of this type of virus, and that it only effects snakes. Where did it come from, how did it get here? These questions need to be answered.


  2. James says:

    That is creepy! Next thing you know someone is going to get bit by a snake and contract ebola. What will kill the person first the venom of the snake bite or the ebola?


  3. Dre says:

    I guess I should stay away from snakes now. Please tell your children not to play with snakes!!!


  4. Judy Sanford says:

    Could the world get so lucky as all the poisonous type snakes be killed off! I know, I know, they do things to help the ecosystems, but I for one think the world can get by just fine without them! Let’s give it a try and while we are at it, let’s get rid of the spiders, wasp, bees, mosquito’s etc. Not kidding!


    • Rosie says:

      Give me a break! The world needs bees! Ever heard of pollination? Duhh


    • Bob says:

      So while everyone is entitled to their opinion first of all boas and pythons are NOT venomis reptiles. Second all creatures of this planet deserve to be here and it’s not for us to play God. Humans are the virus and while we do have brief glimpses of beauty the overall picture is destruction and entitlement. It will be interesting when one day we are no longer on top of the food chain..


  5. Therese says:

    I am fascinated by the structure of the ArenaVirus honestly. This might be an opportunity to find a helpful characteristic that can be traced back to the Ebola Virus. I agree that there is a dangerous potential here in terms of potential mutation – but I believe that would be determined by specific criteria. I find it interesting that the snake ties itself up in knots in reponse honestly.


    • niebo says:

      I’m with you, that it ties snakes into knots while every cell in a human body becomes unsheathed is interesting, but both Lassa and Ebola together (!!), should it become contagious to humans, is a good way to spell K-I-L-L-E-D


  6. Lindygee says:

    I am concerned that these monster snakes will migrate out of the Everglades, putting the entire South at risk. Water moccasins and rattlers are bad enough, but they are part of the natural landscapes. Boas and pythons are not. Just one more thing to worry about.


  7. Larry Dunn says:

    The daily “Extinction Protocal” stories and their threads continue to amaze & fascinate me. I have read “Extinction Protocal”, “The Seventh Protocal” and “Hazard”…just ordered “Sparkle” . Can’t wait to dig in! Alvin Conway is brilliant…

    Thanks, Alvin!


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