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article imageTackling deadly snake disease

By Tim Sandle     Feb 4, 2014 in Environment
Miami - Scientists have developed a simple immune-based screening test to identify the presence of a fatal disease that strikes boas and pythons in captivity, including those sold to the global pet trade.
The deadly disease affecting snakes is called inclusion body disease (IBD|). The disease is highly infectious and most commonly affects boa constrictors (although pythons and other snake species in the boid family are sometimes infected with the virus). IBD was first seen in snakes in the late 1970s. The disease is spread by mites.
In order to detect the disease so that infected snakes can be kept away from healthy ones, a research team have developed a simple immune-based screening test. Eventually, when the infection has spread, snakes infected with IBD display neurological signs, such as head-tilting, chronic regurgitation or disequilibrium. However, during the initial stages a healthy snake cannot be told apart from an infected snake. This new test provides a means to do so.
To develop the test, the scientists studied a monoclonal antibody produced in response to a unique protein that accumulates in cells of snakes having IBD. They then sequenced the protein in an effort to further understand the nature and cause of the disease.
In terms of tackling the disease head on, scientists are of the view that only strict quarantine of new arrivals to snake populations and the culling of infected snakes, as well as mite control, can mitigate the spread of the disease. This is needed because progression and transmission of the virus is both very rapid and destructive.
The research team was led by Elliott Jacobson, D.V.M., Ph.D., and research was undertaken at the University of Florida. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS One, in a paper titled “Immunohistochemical Detection of a Unique Protein within Cells of Snakes Having Inclusion Body Disease, a World-Wide Disease Seen in Members of the Families Boidae and Pythonidae.”
More about Snakes, boas, Disease, Reptiles, boids
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