Antibodies to canine and feline viruses in spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta in the masai mara national reserve

Tara M. Harrison, Jonna A Mazet, Kay E. Holekamp, Edward Dubovi, Anne L. Engh, Keith Nelson, Russell C. Van Horn, Linda Munson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are abundant predators in the Serengeti ecosystem and interact with other species of wild carnivores and domestic animals in ways that could encourage disease transmission. Hyenas also have a unique hierarchical social system that might affect the flow of pathogens. Antibodies to canine distemper virus (CDV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline panleukopenia virus/canine parvovirus (FPLV/CPV), feline coronavirus/ feline infectious peritonitis virus (FECV/FIPV), feline calicivirus (FCV), and feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV1) have been detected in other Serengeti predators, indicating that these viruses are present in the ecosystem. The purpose of this study was to determine whether spotted hyenas also had been infected with these viruses and to assess risk factors for infection. Serum samples were collected between 1993 and 2001 from 119 animals in a single clan for which behavioral data on social structure were available and from 121 hyenas in several other clans. All animals resided in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Antibodies to CDV, FIV, FPLV/CPV, FECV/FIPV, FCV, and FHV1 were present in 47%, 35%, 81%, 36%, 72%, and 0.5% of study hyenas, respectively. Antibody prevalence was greater in adults for FIV and FECV/FIPV, and being a female of high social rank was a risk factor for FIV. Hyenas near human habitation appeared to be at lower risk to have CDV, FIV, and FECV/FIPV antibodies, whereas being near human habitation increased the risk for FPLV/CPV antibodies. Canine distemper virus and FECV/FIPV antibody prevalence varied considerably over time, whereas FIV, FPLV/CPV, and FCV had a stable, apparently endemic temporal pattern. These results indicate that hyenas might play a role in the ecology of these viruses in the Serengeti ecosystem. The effect of these viruses on hyena health should be further investigated. The lower prevalence of CDV antibody-positive hyenas near human habitation suggests that reservoirs for CDV other than domestic dogs are present in the Serengeti ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Wildlife Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Canine distemper virus
  • Crocuta crocuta
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Hyena
  • Kenya
  • Serology
  • Viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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