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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 116:149-155 (2015)  -  DOI:

Herpesvirus-like respiratory infection in African penguins Spheniscus demersus admitted to a rehabilitation centre

Nola J. Parsons1,*, Tertius A. Gous2, Erna van Wilpe3, Venessa Strauss1, Ralph Eric Thijl Vanstreels

1Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), PO Box 11116, Bloubergrant, Cape Town, 7443, South Africa
2PO Box 5371, Helderberg, 7135, South Africa
3Electron Microscope Unit, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa
4Laboratory of Wildlife Comparative Pathology (LAPCOM), University of São Paulo, Avenida Professor Orlando Marques de Paiva, 87, São Paulo, SP 05508-270, Brazil
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Rehabilitation is an important strategy for the conservation of the Endangered African penguin Spheniscus demersus, and disease has been raised as a concern in the management of the species, both in the wild and in rehabilitation centres. We report 8 cases of herpesvirus-like respiratory infection in African penguin chicks undergoing rehabilitation between 2010 and 2013 at a facility in Cape Town, South Africa. Infection was confirmed through the identification of viral inclusions in the tracheal epithelium and demonstration of particles consistent with herpesvirus by electron microscopy, whereas virus isolation in eggs, serology and PCR testing failed to detect the virus. Only penguin chicks were affected; they were in poor body condition, and in 2 cases infection occurred prior to admission to the rehabilitation centre. The role played by the herpesvirus-like infection in the overall respiratory disease syndrome is uncertain, due to identification of lesions in only a small proportion of the chicks as well as to the occurrence of other concurrent pathological processes. Further studies are advised to characterise the specific virus involved through the development of sensitive diagnostic methods and to clarify the epidemiology and significance of these infections in wild African penguins.

KEY WORDS: Herpesvirales · Laryngotracheitis · Sphenisciformes · South Africa · Conservation

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Cite this article as: Parsons NJ, Gous TA, van Wilpe E, Strauss V, Vanstreels RET (2015) Herpesvirus-like respiratory infection in African penguins Spheniscus demersus admitted to a rehabilitation centre. Dis Aquat Org 116:149-155.

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