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Detection of EGHV-5 in a self-limiting papilloma-like lesion in the trunk of an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
  1. N. J. Masters, MA, VetMB, MSc, MRCVS1,
  2. M. F. Stidworthy, MA, VetMB, PhD, FRCPath, MRCVS1,
  3. D. J. Everest2,
  4. A. Dastjerdi, DVM, MSc, PhD2 and
  5. S. Bäulmer3
  1. International Zoo Veterinary Group, Keighley Business Centre, South Street, Keighley, West Yorkshire BD21 1AG, UK
  2. Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency–Weybridge, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB, UK
  3. Twycross Zoo, East Midland Zoological Society, Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 3PX, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence mail{at}nicmasters.net
  • Mr Masters is also at Twycross Zoo, East Midland Zoological Society, Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 3PX, UK

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HERPESVIRUS infections are widespread in captive populations of Asian elephants and result in major implications for elephant management. Molecular studies have thus far identified six distinct elephant gammaherpesviruses (EGHVs), and a further seven distinct elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses (EEHVs) (Latimer and others 2011, Wellehan and others 2008).

Gammaherpesviruses have limited pathogenic potential upon primary infection of their natural host, and are commonly found in healthy animals of a variety of species (Wellehan and others 2008). As a result, less research has been undertaken on EGHVs than on EEHVs. EGHVs have so far been identified in eye and genital secretions and papilloma-like skin lesions of asymptomatic animals (Latimer and others 2011, Wellehan and others 2008). There is growing evidence of an association with ocular disease (epiphora, blepharitis and conjunctivitis) (Wellehan and others 2006) and genital lesions (described by Wellehan and others [2008] as ‘vaginal plaques’); the latter might be more accurately described as vestibular plaques, since it is generally the vestibular mucosa on which they are detected. Both are relatively common findings in captive elephants. Coinfections with multiple EEHVs and EGHVs are possible (Latimer and others 2011).

In contrast, EEHV is one of the most important infectious diseases of captive elephants, threatening the sustainability of the global captive population. This acute, typically fatal, haemorrhagic disease was first documented over 10 years ago (Richman and others 1999). Investigations of deaths of young Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta africana) elephants revealed herpesvirus-like particles in heart, liver and tongue endothelial cells, and PCR studies identified two related betaherpesviruses (later designated EEHV-1 and EEHV-2). The epidemiological picture has become more complicated by the discovery of further fatal betaherpesviruses (designated genus Proboscivirus) such as EEHV-3 (Garner …

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