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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 117:253-258 (2016)  -  DOI:

Virus-associated papillomatous skin lesions in a giant guitarfish Rhynchobatus djiddensis: a case report

Alvin Camus1,*, Jennifer Dill1, Alexa McDermott2, Melinda Camus1, Terry Fei Fan Ng1,3

1Department of Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA
2Department of Veterinary Services, Georgia Aquarium, Inc., 225 Baker Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30313, USA
3Present address: Division of Viral Diseases, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30329, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Although elasmobranch species are increasingly displayed in public aquaria, knowledge of disease in wild and captive elasmobranchs, as well as the agents involved, remains limited, and descriptions are often incomplete. This report describes papillomatous skin lesions in a juvenile giant guitarfish Rhynchobatus djiddensis associated with intranuclear viral particles. Skin biopsies were collected from multiple, friable, raised, villonodular skin lesions affecting pigmented and non-pigmented skin of the caudal fin and ventrum, respectively. Microscopic examination revealed papillary proliferation of the epidermis, with widespread marked karyomegaly of squamous epithelial cells. In approximately 75% of nuclei, chromatin was marginated by one to multiple, large, amphophilic inclusions. Large numbers of unencapsulated, 75 nm, icosahedral viral particles were observed to form large arrays in affected nuclei using transmission electron microscopy. Based on intranuclear location, particle size and morphology, a consensus nested-PCR for adenovirus polymerase was attempted. However, no adenoviral gene sequence was amplified. The nature of the involved virus remains unknown and an ongoing area of investigation. Lesions regressed completely over a 6 mo period, during which time the animal showed no signs of systemic illness, and there has been no recrudescence for 6 mo following resolution. Two cohorts of similar age and in close contact with the case animal were unaffected.

KEY WORDS: Virus · Skin lesion · Histopathology · Giant guitarfish

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Cite this article as: Camus A, Dill J, McDermott A, Camus M, Fan Ng TF (2016) Virus-associated papillomatous skin lesions in a giant guitarfish Rhynchobatus djiddensis: a case report. Dis Aquat Org 117:253-258.

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