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UF researchers develop blood test for devastating disease of boas and pythons
Date:1/29/2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. University of Florida researchers have developed a simple immune-based screening test to identify the presence of a debilitating and usually fatal disease that strikes boas and pythons in captivity as well as those sold to the pet trade worldwide.

Known as inclusion body disease, or IBD, the highly infectious disease most commonly affects boa constrictors but pythons and other snake species in the boid family are also occasionally infected with the virus that causes the disease. IBD was first seen in snakes in the late 1970s, said Elliott Jacobson, D.V.M., Ph.D., a professor emeritus of zoological medicine at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of a study that appeared in December in PLOS ONE.

"We don't know the prevalence, but we see more of IBD in the United States because there are some 2 million boas being kept as pets in this country," Jacobson said. "This simple blood test will help determine whether or not an animal has this disease and potentially will help clean up colonies of snakes that will ultimately be disease-free."

Although snakes infected with IBD may display neurological signs, such as head-tilting, chronic regurgitation or disequilibrium, there is also a population of snakes that are subclinical, meaning they are infected but otherwise appear healthy.

"That's a big problem, because healthy-seeming animals that are affected with IBD are being sold and sent around the world," he said. "However, they may develop the disease sometime later and may be the source of infection for other snakes."

On Jacobson's research team at the UF veterinary college were his former graduate student, Li-Wen Chang, B.V.M., Ph.D., the principal investigator in the study, and Jorge Hernandez, D.V.M., Ph.D., a veterinary epidemiologist.

To develop the test, the researchers studied a monoclonal antibody produced in response to a unique protein that accumulates in cells of sna
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Contact: Sarah Carey
careysk@ufl.edu
352-294-4242
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert  

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