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Rare Amur tigers affected by canine distemper

By Tim Sandle     Aug 15, 2013 in Environment
There have been several cases of rare Amur tigers in Russia being infected with canine distemper virus, a pathogen most commonly found in domestic dogs. The current trend is worrying researchers.
The numbers of Amur tigers (also called Siberian tigers) stands at fewer than 500, with their numbers reduced to such a low level through loss of habitat and poaching. The tigers now face a new threat: canine distemper virus.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) is most commonly associated with domestic animals such as dogs and ferrets. The virus is a close relative of measles and rinderpest. CDV spreads through aerosol droplets and through contact with infected bodily fluids. The initial symptom of infection is fever, and serious cases can include infection and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The mortality rate of the virus largely depends on the immune status of the infected animals.
The risk of CDV to Amur tigers is growing. Researchers estimate that estimate that the virus has killed at least 1% of Amur tigers since 2009. One video shows tigers entering villages and wandering onto roads in the Russian Far East, stumbling, emaciated, and unafraid of humans:
To account for this behavior, researchers took tissue samples from five wild Amur tigers that died or were destroyed due to neurological disease in 2001, 2004, or 2010. The researchers found that infection with CDV, a type of morbillivirus, is to blame for the deaths of two of the tigers and caused a serious infection in a third. The researchers speculate that the virus has jumped species from dogs to tigers.
The findings have been published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The paper is titled “Canine Distemper Virus: an Emerging Disease in Wild Endangered Amur Tigers (Panthera tigris altaica).”
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