Investigation of Amphibian Mortality Events in Wildlife Reveals an On-Going Ranavirus Epidemic in the North of the Netherlands.
ABSTRACT: In the four years following the first detection of ranavirus (genus Ranavirus, family Iridoviridae) infection in Dutch wildlife in 2010, amphibian mortality events were investigated nationwide to detect, characterize and map ranaviruses in amphibians over time, and to establish the affected host species and the clinico-pathological presentation of the disease in these hosts. The ultimate goal was to obtain more insight into ranavirus disease emergence and ecological risk. In total 155 dead amphibians from 52 sites were submitted between 2011 and 2014, and examined using histopathology, immunohistochemistry, virus isolation and molecular genetic characterization. Ranavirus-associated amphibian mortality events occurred at 18 sites (35%), initially only in proximity of the 2010 index site. Specimens belonging to approximately half of the native amphibian species were infected, including the threatened Pelobates fuscus (spadefoot toad). Clustered massive outbreaks involving dead adult specimens and ranavirus genomic identity indicated that one common midwife toad virus (CMTV)-like ranavirus strain is emerging in provinces in the north of the Netherlands. Modelling based on the spatiotemporal pattern of spread showed a high probability that this emerging virus will continue to be detected at new sites (the discrete reproductive power of this outbreak is 0.35). Phylogenetically distinct CMTV-like ranaviruses were found in the south of the Netherlands more recently. In addition to showing that CMTV-like ranaviruses threaten wild amphibian populations not only in Spain but also in the Netherlands, the current spread and risk of establishment reiterate that understanding the underlying causes of CMTV-like ranavirus emergence requires international attention.
Project description:Ranaviruses are pathogenic viruses for poikilothermic vertebrates worldwide. The identification of a common midwife toad virus (CMTV) associated with massive die-offs in water frogs (Pelophylax spp.) in the Netherlands has increased awareness for emerging viruses in amphibians in the country. Complete genome sequencing of 13 ranavirus isolates collected from ten different sites in the period 2011-2016 revealed three CMTV groups present in distinct geographical areas in the Netherlands. Phylogenetic analysis showed that emerging viruses from the northern part of the Netherlands belonged to CMTV-NL group I. Group II and III viruses were derived from the animals located in the center-east and south of the country, and shared a more recent common ancestor to CMTV-amphibian associated ranaviruses reported in China, Italy, Denmark, and Switzerland. Field monitoring revealed differences in water frog host abundance at sites where distinct ranavirus groups occur; with ranavirus-associated deaths, host counts decreasing progressively, and few juveniles found in the north where CMTV-NL group I occurs but not in the south with CMTV-NL group III. Investigation of tandem repeats of coding genes gave no conclusive information about phylo-geographical clustering, while genetic analysis of the genomes revealed truncations in 17 genes across CMTV-NL groups II and III compared to group I. Further studies are needed to elucidate the contribution of these genes as well as environmental variables to explain the observed differences in host abundance.
Project description:Ranaviruses are pathogens associated with the decline of amphibian populations across much of their distribution. In North America, frog virus 3 (FV3) is a widely distributed pathogen with wild populations of amphibians harboring different lineages and putative recombinants between FV3 and common midwife toad virus (CMTV). These recombinants have higher pathogenicity, and CMTV-derived genes associated with virulence are reported in wild strains in Canada. However, while FV3 is linked to amphibian die-offs in North America, CMTVs have been reported only in commercial frog farms in North America. We sequenced complete genomes of 18 FV3 isolates from three amphibian species to characterize genetic diversity of the lineages in Canada and infer possible recombinant regions. The 18 FV3 isolates displayed different signals of recombination, varying from none to interspersed recombination with previously isolated CMTV-like viruses. In general, most recombination breakpoints were located within open reading frames (ORFs), generating new ORFs and proteins that were a mixture between FV3 and CMTV. A combined spatial and temporal phylogeny suggests the presence of the FV3 lineage in Canada is relatively contemporary (<100?years), corroborating the hypothesis that both CMTV- and FV3-like viruses spread to North America when the international commercial amphibian trade started. Our results highlight the importance of pathogen surveillance and viral dynamics using full genomes to more clearly understand the mechanisms of disease origin and spread.IMPORTANCE Amphibian populations are declining worldwide, and these declines have been linked to a number of anthropogenic factors, including disease. Among the pathogens associated with amphibian mortality, ranaviruses have caused massive die-offs across continents. In North America, frog virus 3 (FV3) is a widespread ranavirus that can infect wild and captive amphibians. In this study, we sequenced full FV3 genomes isolated from frogs in Canada. We report widespread recombination between FV3 and common midwife toad virus (CMTV). Phylogenies indicate a recent origin for FV3 in Canada, possibly as a result of international amphibian trade.
Project description:Reports of severe disease outbreaks in amphibian communities in mainland Europe due to strains of the common midwife toad virus (CMTV)-like clade of Ranavirus are increasing and have created concern due to their considerable population impacts. In Great Britain, viruses in another clade of Ranavirus-frog virus 3 (FV3)-like-have caused marked declines of common frog (Rana temporaria) populations following likely recent virus introductions. The British public has been reporting mortality incidents to a citizen science project since 1992, with carcasses submitted for post-mortem examination, resulting in a long-term tissue archive spanning 25 years. We screened this archive for ranavirus (458 individuals from 228 incidents) using molecular methods and undertook preliminary genotyping of the ranaviruses detected. In total, ranavirus was detected in 90 individuals from 41 incidents focused in the north and south of England. The majority of detections involved common frogs (90%) but also another anuran, a caudate and a reptile. Most incidents were associated with FV3-like viruses but two, separated by 300 km and 16 years, involved CMTV-like viruses. These British CMTV-like viruses were more closely related to ranaviruses from mainland Europe than to each other and were estimated to have diverged at least 458 years ago. This evidence of a CMTV-like virus in Great Britain in 1995 represents the earliest confirmed case of a CMTV associated with amphibians and raises important questions about the history of ranavirus in Great Britain and the epidemiology of CMTV-like viruses. Despite biases present in the opportunistic sample used, this study also demonstrates the role of citizen science projects in generating resources for research and the value of maintaining long-term wildlife tissue archives.
Project description:Worldwide amphibian population declines have been ascribed to global warming, increasing pollution levels, and other factors directly related to human activities. These factors may additionally be favoring the emergence of novel pathogens. In this report, we have determined the complete genome sequence of the emerging common midwife toad ranavirus (CMTV), which has caused fatal disease in several amphibian species across Europe. Phylogenetic and gene content analyses of the first complete genomic sequence from a ranavirus isolated in Europe show that CMTV is an amphibian-like ranavirus (ALRV). However, the CMTV genome structure is novel and represents an intermediate evolutionary stage between the two previously described ALRV groups. We find that CMTV clusters with several other ranaviruses isolated from different hosts and locations which might also be included in this novel ranavirus group. This work sheds light on the phylogenetic relationships within this complex group of emerging, disease-causing viruses.
Project description:Emerging diseases have been increasingly associated with population declines, with co-infections exhibiting many types of interactions. The chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) and ranaviruses have extraordinarily broad host ranges, however co-infection dynamics have been largely overlooked. We investigated the pattern of co-occurrence of these two pathogens in an amphibian assemblage in Serra da Estrela (Portugal). The detection of chytridiomycosis in Portugal was linked to population declines of midwife-toads (Alytes obstetricans). The asynchronous and subsequent emergence of a second pathogen - ranavirus - caused episodes of lethal ranavirosis. Chytrid effects were limited to high altitudes and a single host, while ranavirus was highly pathogenic across multiple hosts, life-stages and altitudinal range. This new strain (Portuguese newt and toad ranavirus - member of the CMTV clade) caused annual mass die-offs, similar in host range and rapidity of declines to other locations in Iberia affected by CMTV-like ranaviruses. However, ranavirus was not always associated with disease, mortality and declines, contrasting with previous reports on Iberian CMTV-like ranavirosis. We found little evidence that pre-existing chytrid emergence was associated with ranavirus and the emergence of ranavirosis. Despite the lack of cumulative or amplified effects, ranavirus drove declines of host assemblages and changed host community composition and structure, posing a grave threat to all amphibian populations.
Project description:Ranaviruses were isolated from wild edible frogs (Pelophylax esculentus) during epizootics in Denmark and Italy. Phylogenomic analyses revealed that these isolates are closely related and belong to a clade of ranaviruses that includes the Andrias davidianus ranavirus (ADRV), common midwife toad ranavirus (CMTV), Testudo hermanni ranavirus (THRV), and pike-perch iridovirus (PPIV).
Project description:Ranavirus is the second most common infectious cause of amphibian mortality. These viruses affect caudates, an order in which information regarding Ranavirus pathogenesis is scarce. In the Netherlands, two strains (CMTV-NL I and III) were suspected to possess distinct pathogenicity based on field data. To investigate susceptibility and disease progression in urodeles and determine differences in pathogenicity between strains, 45 adult smooth newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) were challenged via bath exposure with these ranaviruses and their detection in organs and feces followed over time by PCR, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. Ranavirus was first detected at 3 days post infection (p.i.) in the oral cavity and upper respiratory mucosa. At 6 days p.i, virus was found in connective tissues and vasculature of the gastrointestinal tract. Finally, from 9 days p.i onwards there was widespread Ranavirus disease in various organs including skin, kidneys and gonads. Higher pathogenicity of the CMTV-NL I strain was confirmed by higher correlation coefficient of experimental group and mortality of challenged animals. Ranavirus-exposed smooth newts shed virus in feces intermittently and infection was seen in the absence of lesions or clinical signs, indicating that this species can harbor subclinical infections and potentially serve as disease reservoirs.
Project description:Ranaviruses have caused die-offs of amphibians across the globe. In North America, these pathogens cause more amphibian mortality events than any other pathogen. Field observations suggest that ranavirus epizootics in amphibian communities are common during metamorphosis, presumably due to changes in immune function. However, few controlled studies have compared the relative susceptibility of amphibians to ranaviruses across life stages. Our objectives were to measure differences in mortality and infection prevalence following exposure to ranavirus at four developmental stages and determine whether the differences were consistent among seven anuran species. Based on previous studies, we hypothesized that susceptibility to ranavirus would be greatest at metamorphosis. Our results did not support this hypothesis, as four of the species were most susceptible to ranavirus during the larval or hatchling stages. The embryo stage had the lowest susceptibility among species probably due to the protective membranous layers of the egg. Our results indicate that generalizations should be made cautiously about patterns of susceptibility to ranaviruses among amphibian developmental stages and species. Further, if early developmental stages of amphibians are susceptible to ranaviruses, the impact of ranavirus epizootic events may be greater than realized due to the greater difficulty of detecting morbid hatchlings and larvae compared to metamorphs.
Project description:Ranaviruses are emerging pathogens that have led to global impact and public concern. As a rarely endangered species and the largest amphibian in the world, the Chinese giant salamander, Andrias davidianus, has recently undergone outbreaks of epidemic diseases with high mortality. In this study, we isolated and identified a novel ranavirus from the Chinese giant salamanders that exhibited systemic hemorrhage and swelling syndrome with high death rate in China during May 2011 to August 2012. The isolate, designated Andrias davidianus ranavirus (ADRV), not only could induce cytopathic effects in different fish cell lines and yield high viral titers, but also caused severely hemorrhagic lesions and resulted in 100% mortality in experimental infections of salamanders. The complete genome of ADRV was sequenced and compared with other sequenced amphibian ranaviruses. Gene content and phylogenetic analyses revealed that ADRV should belong to an amphibian subgroup in genus Ranavirus, and is more closely related to frog ranaviruses than to other salamander ranaviruses. Homologous gene comparisons show that ADRV contains 99%, 97%, 94%, 93% and 85% homologues in RGV, FV3, CMTV, TFV and ATV genomes respectively. In addition, several variable major genes, such as duplicate US22 family-like genes, viral eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 alpha gene and novel 75L gene with both motifs of nuclear localization signal (NLS) and nuclear export signal (NES), were predicted to contribute to pathogen virulence and host susceptibility. These findings confirm the etiologic role of ADRV in epidemic diseases of Chinese giant salamanders, and broaden our understanding of evolutionary emergence of ranaviruses.
Project description:Recent research on genome evolution of large DNA viruses has highlighted a number of incredibly dynamic processes that can facilitate rapid adaptation. The genomes of amphibian-like ranaviruses - double-stranded DNA viruses infecting amphibians, reptiles, and fish (family Iridoviridae) - were examined to assess variation in genome content and evolutionary processes. The viruses studied were closely related, but their genome content varied considerably, with 29 genes identified that were not present in all of the major clades. Twenty-one genes had evidence of recombination, while a virus isolated from a captive reptile appeared to be a mosaic of two divergent parents. Positive selection was also found to be acting on more than a quarter of Ranavirus genes and was found most frequently in the Spanish common midwife toad virus, which has had a severe impact on amphibian host communities. Efforts to resolve the root of this group by inclusion of an outgroup were inconclusive, but a set of core genes were identified, which recovered a well-supported species tree.