Differential disease susceptibilities in experimentally reptarenavirus-infected boa constrictors and ball pythons

Mark D. Stenglein, David Sanchez Migallon Guzman, Valentina E. Garcia, Marylee L. Layton, Laura L. Hoon-Hanks, Scott M. Boback, M. Kevin Keel, Tracy Drazenovich, Michelle G. Hawkins, Joseph L. DeRisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Inclusion body disease (IBD) is an infectious disease originally described in captive snakes. It has traditionally been diagnosed by the presence of large eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusions and is associated with neurological, gastrointestinal, and lymphoproliferative disorders. Previously, we identified and established a culture system for a novel lineage of arenaviruses isolated from boa constrictors diagnosed with IBD. Although ample circumstantial evidence suggested that these viruses, now known as reptarenaviruses, cause IBD, there has been no formal demonstration of disease causality since their discovery. We therefore conducted a long-term challenge experiment to test the hypothesis that reptarenaviruses cause IBD. We infected boa constrictors and ball pythons by cardiac injection of purified virus. We monitored the progression of viral growth in tissues, blood, and environmental samples. Infection produced dramatically different disease outcomes in snakes of the two species. Ball pythons infected with Golden Gate virus (GoGV) and with another reptarenavirus displayed severe neurological signs within 2 months, and viral replication was detected only in central nervous system tissues. In contrast, GoGV-infected boa constrictors remained free of clinical signs for 2 years, despite high viral loads and the accumulation of large intracellular inclusions in multiple tissues, including the brain. Inflammation was associated with infection in ball pythons but not in boa constrictors. Thus, reptarenavirus infection produces inclusions and inclusion body disease, although inclusions per se are neither necessarily associated with nor required for disease. Although the natural distribution of reptarenaviruses has yet to be described, the different outcomes of infection may reflect differences in geographical origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00451-17
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Arenavirus
  • Inclusion body disease
  • Pathogenesis
  • Reptarenavirus
  • Veterinary pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Virology


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