Rare Amur tigers in Russia are succumbing to infection with canine distemper virus (CDV), a pathogen most commonly found in domestic dogs, according to the authors of a study published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
Pressure from poaching, decimation of their prey base, and habitat fragmentation have diminished the population of Amur tigers (also called Siberian tigers) to fewer than 500. In the study, a team of scientists from the US and Russia show that CDV infected and caused fatal neurological disease in members of this critically endangered species. They estimate that the virus has killed at least 1% of Amur tigers since 2009.
"Losing 1% of an endangered population is pretty significant," says corresponding author Denise McAloose, Head Pathologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society in The Bronx, New York. "And these losses represent only the deaths we know about. I imagine that there were others that we just never saw," says McAloose.
Since 2001, several rare Amur Tigers have exhibited a set of strange behaviors. Normally a reclusive species, tigers have been seen entering villages and wandering onto roads in the Russian Far East, stumbling, emaciated, and unafraid of humans. (One example can be found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTGRtwV1RII). In each of the documented cases, the tiger eventually died or was destroyed after its condition worsened. Early findings showed that at least one of the tigers was infected with a member of the morbillivirus family of viruses, but conclusive answers had evaded scientists and wildlife managers until now.
Using tissue samples from five wild Amur tigers that died or were destroyed due to neurological disease in 2001, 2004, or 2010, McAloose and her colleagues proved that infection with CDV, a type of morbillivirus, is to blame for the
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology