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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 31:161-167 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/dao031161

Isolation of a lethal virus from the endangered tiger salamander Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi

James K. Jancovich1, Elizabeth W. Davidson1,*, J. Frank Morado2, Bertram L. Jacobs3, James P. Collins1

1Department of Biology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-1501, USA
2National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle, Washington 98115-0070, USA
3Department of Microbiology and Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-1144, USA
*Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

The Sonora tiger salamander Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi Lowe is a genetically distinct race restricted to about 30 small ponds in the San Rafael Valley in southern Arizona, USA, which was added recently to the USA Federal List of Endangered Species. Populations of these salamanders periodically experience decimating epizootics. Virus was isolated from diseased salamanders using fish cell cultures, injected into healthy laboratory-reared salamanders, and then reisolated in cell culture. Electron microscopy of thin sections from dying salamanders revealed abundant enveloped and nonenveloped icosahedral virus particles approximately 160 to 180 nm in diameter in the cytoplasm of skin and liver cells and free in the intercellular spaces. This virus, believed to be an iridovirus based on viral morphology and host pathology, was demonstrated to be the primary pathogen in these epizootics, and is the first lethal epizootic virus reported from salamanders. We have named the virus Ambystoma tigrinum Virus (ATV). Hemolytic bacteria were isolated from sick individuals, but we were unable to induce the disease by exposing salamanders to isolated bacteria at concentrations up to 108 ml-1.

Salamander · Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi · Virus · Iridovirus · Amphibian decline

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