First Report of Aleutian Disease in a Least Weasel (Mustela Nivalis)

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First Report of Aleutian Disease in a Least Weasel (Mustela Nivalis)

Loukopoulos, Panagiotis
Billinis, Charalambos
Tsalie, Eleftheria

Aleutian disease or plasmacytosis is a slow infection caused by a parvovirus (Aleutian Disease virus, ADV) and almost exclusively concerning mink (Mustela vison). It is clinically characterised by gradual weight loss, poor reproduction, renal failure and high mortality. Diagnosis in mink is usually based on the presence of hypergammaglobulinemia and a high titer of non-neutralising antibody to ADV, in addition to histopathological findings.(1) An ADV-specific antibody has also been demonstrated in a variety of other species, including humans, foxes, dogs, raccoons, cats, ferrets, the free-ranging European mink and other small carnivores.(2) However the only animal besides the mink in which overt disease appears to occur is the ferret (Mustela putorius furo), while a suspected case has been reported in a wild otter.(3) This communication describes the first report of Aleutian disease in a least weasel (Mustela nivalis). An eight-month-old male least weasel was found dead in its cage at the Thessaloniki Zoo in October 2005 and was referred to the Pathology Laboratory of the Aristotle University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in order to determine the cause of its death. According to the attending zoo staff, the animal had decreased appetite for approximately 3 to 4 days. It had previously been kept as a pet at the basement of an apartment building in Thessaloniki and was donated to the zoo two months prior to its death. At the zoo, it was housed alone. No other least weasels or other Mustelidae were kept at the zoo. On necropsy, the animal was cachectic and showed moderately severe diffuse alopecia. Multiple small yellow to whitish foci were scattered throughout the lungs and were more numerous and larger in the diaphragmatic lobes, while they were fewer and smaller in the apical lobes. The liver was enlarged and diffusely and non-uniformly discoloured, while the spleen was severely enlarged. On histological examination, the dominant lesion observed was the severe multifocal or diffuse plasma cell infiltration of various organs, including the kidneys, lungs, liver and spleen. On analysis of PCR products, Aleutian mink disease parvovirus (ADV) DNA was detected in frozen samples from various organs, using primers directed against the gene encoding Aleutian disease viral capsid. Based on the histological lesions that closely resemble those seen in the AD of mink and the identification of a band characteristic of ADV in PCR products, a diagnosis of Aleutian disease in a least weasel was established. The source of infection in the present case is unknown. Transmission of the virus in mink occurs in utero or by contact with infected mink. Given the fact that direct or indirect contact of the animal with infected mink is highly unlikely, and that no other Mustelidae were kept in the zoo, it is possible that the source of the infection was another animal carrying the virus, possibly asymptomatically, that came in contact with the weasel. Given the slow course of the disease, the animal was most likely infected while it was kept as a pet. Recognition of this condition, which is reported for the first time and may be recently introduced or underdiagnosed, may help improve medical standards concerning this species in practice. There is possibly a need for virological examinations to be performed routinely prior to export or introduction of such animals to zoos. Newly acquired least weasels or related species should be kept in isolation, if possible, for the first period following their importation or acquisition, until such virological tests are completed. Epidemiologic and virological studies may need to be conducted to examine the prevalence and distribution of this infection in wild weasels and related species, in order to assess the potential risk and identify or exclude it as a potential cause of population decline in these species

Conference / Συνέδριο

Mustela Nivalis
Aleutian Disease

Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης (EL)
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (EN)

Αγγλική γλώσσα


Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης, Σχολή Επιστημών Υγείας, Τμήμα Κτηνιατρικής

Proceedings of the 5th International Congress on Wild Fauna, [2007] [Published Version]

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