Genetic characterization of canine distemper virus in Serengeti carnivores.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) was identified as the cause of a fatal epidemic of nervous disease, encephalitis and pneumonia in the lion population in the Serengeti in 1994. Several other species in the Serengeti were also affected. Sequence analysis of CDV H and P genes isolated from Serengeti lions (Panthera leo), spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta), bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) and domestic dog (Canis familiaris) showed that the 4 Serengeti species carry closely related CDV isolates which are genetically distinct from other CDV isolates from various species and locations. It is concluded that a particularly virulent strain of CDV emerged among Serengeti carnivores within the last few years; the strain has shared-derived (synapomorphic) genetic differences in both H and P genes when compared to CDV from other parts of the world; and that the CDV strain has frequently crossed host species among Serengeti carnivores.