The problem isn't limited to one location, says McAloose. The three tigers that tested positive for CDV were distributed across the Russian Far East.
"That tells us this is a disease that is distributed all across Amur tiger range," McAloose says. "And it also appears to be a relatively new threat to tigers since blood samples from wild tigers prior to 2000 tested negative for antibodies to the virus".
But how do tigers contract a CDV infection? Relatively few domestic dogs in the Russian Far East are vaccinated against CDV, McAloose says, and tigers do kill and eat dogs, so they represent one possible source. But domestic dogs aren't the only suspects.
"In the Russian Far East, domestic dogs are one of the biggest concerns, but other species, like raccoon dogs or foxes, can also harbor the disease," says McAloose.
McAloose and her colleagues are now working on collecting samples from dogs and small wild carnivores in the Russian Far East to get a more complete picture of the various strains of CDV in circulation in the hopes of linking tiger infections to a source, knowledge that would hopefully aid in preventing more infections among tigers.
"The situation is quite serious", says McAloose, and when asked if CDV could spell the demise of Amur tigers, she says, "It's possible."
"It's the first infectious disease that we know is a significant risk to Amur tiger survival," says McAloose.
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology