canine distemper virus
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Diseases Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Pathogen Characteristics
- Host Animals
- Pathway Vectors
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- canine distemper virus
Other Scientific Names
- distemper virus
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a paramyxovirus closely related to the measles and rinderpest viruses; it causes a highly contagious acute febrile disease. Canine distemper has been known since at least 1760 and has a worldwide distribution. The disease occurs in a wide variety of terrestrial carnivores including Canidae (dog, fox, wolf, raccoon dog), Mustelidae (ferret, mink, skunk, wolverine, marten, badger, otter), Procyonidae (raccoon, coatimundi), Viverridae (palm civet), Ailuridae (red panda), Ursidae (bear), and large Felidae (lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs), as well as a few other mammals such as Asian elephants and some primates. Domestic and feral dogs are considered to be the main reservoir host species. Closely related viruses cause a similar disease in seals (phocine distemper virus) and in porpoises and dolphins (cetacean morbillivirus). CDV is a serious threat to endangered wildlife and this threat is expected to increase with increased encroachment of humans (along with their dogs) into undeveloped areas of the world. Recent large outbreaks in nonhuman primates suggest the virus has adapted to these animals and that the potential exists for it to infect humans.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Virus
- Group: "Positive sense ssRNA viruses"
- Group: "RNA viruses"
- Order: Mononegavirales
- Family: Paramyxoviridae
- Genus: Morbillivirus
- Species: canine distemper virus
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Canine distemper virus (CDV) is an enveloped, single-stranded RNA virus that has been taxonomically assigned to the order Mononegavirales, family Paramyxoviridae, and genus Morbillivirus. It is closely related to the viruses that cause measles in man and rinderpest in ungulates. At least eleven distinct genetic lineages of CDV are recognized – see Pathogen Characteristics section.
The origin of the word distemper is from the Middle English distemperen, meaning “to upset the balance of the humors,” which is originally from the Latin dis- and Latin temperare, meaning “to not mix properly.” The disease, canine distemper, is sometimes called “hardpad disease” in canines due to the hardening of the footpads and nose that can be occur in infected dogs.
Given that the virus can infect a variety of species other than canids, especially within the order Carnivora, some investigators have recently suggested that CDV should be renamed ‘carnivore distemper virus’ (Terio and Craft, 2013).
DistributionTop of page
Canine distemper is distributed worldwide (Creevy, 2013); a detailed distribution table is not provided for this datasheet.
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
It has been suspected that canine distemper was imported from Peru into Spain during the 17th century. It was well-described in 1746 by Antonio de Ulloa; during the mid-18th century, it was first reported in Spain, followed by England, Italy (1764) and Russia (1770) (Blancou, 2004). Edward Jenner published an extensive description of the course and clinical features of the disease in dogs in 1809 (Jenner, 1809). The viral aetiology was demonstrated in 1906 by Henri Carre (Blancou, 2004). The domestic dog has largely been responsible for spreading the disease to new geographic areas and for introducing canine distemper to previously unexposed wildlife. As human populations expanded, increased domestic dog contact with wild carnivores exacerbated the risk for disease transmission (Butler et al., 2004; Cleaveland et al., 2000).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
The distribution of canine distemper virus is worldwide. Rapidly expanding human populations increase domestic dog contact with wildlife, increasing disease transmission into new populations and new geographic regions. As the planet’s human population (and that of their domestic dogs) continues to grow and encroach upon the habitats of wildlife species, it is likely this disease will continue to be introduced into new animal populations.
Pathogen CharacteristicsTop of page
Canine distemper virus (CDV) is an enveloped, single-stranded RNA virus within the genus Morbillivirus (family Paramyxoviridae) and is closely related to the viruses of measles and rinderpest. Similar to other members of the family, CDV virions are pleomorphic, 150-350 nm in diameter, enveloped and covered with large glycoprotein spikes 8-14 nm in length, and contain a “herringbone-shaped” helically symmetrical nucleocapsid, approximately 1 µm in length and 18 nm in diameter (MacLachlan and Dubovi, 2011). The genome consists of a single linear molecule of negative-sense, single-stranded RNA, ~16 kb in size. The RNA does not contain a 5’ cap and is not polyadenylated at the 3’ end, but does have functional 5’ and 3’ non-coding elements. The genome of CDV has 6 genes separated by conserved non-coding sequences that contain termination, polyadenylation, and initiation signals for transcribed mRNAs. The virion proteins include three nucleocapsid proteins (an RNA-binding protein (N), a phosphoprotein (P), and a large polymerase protein (L)) and three membrane proteins (an unglycosylated matrix protein (M), and two glycosylated envelope proteins – a fusion protein (F) and a hemagglutinin (H), which functions as an attachment protein (MacLachlan and Dubovi, 2011)). Viral replication occurs in the cell cytoplasm and virions exit the cell by budding from the plasma membrane. The enveloped virus is sensitive to lipid solvents and most disinfectants and has limited survivability outside the host animal.
At least eleven distinct genetic lineages of CDV are recognized worldwide, based on phylogenetic sequence analysis of the H gene. These CDV lineages are known as America-1, America-2, Arctic, Asia-1, Asia-2, Asia-3, Asia-4, Europe-1/South America-1, Europe wildlife, Rockborn-like, and Africa-1 (Panzera et al., 2012; Radtanakatikanon et al., 2013; Sarute et al., 2014; Zhao et al., 2010). The vaccine strains of CDV - Snyder Hill, Onderstepoort, Lederle – are all included in the America-1 lineage. Despite genetic differences among field strains of CDV, cross-neutralization studies show only minor antigenic differences (MacLachlan and Dubovi, 2011).
McCarthy et al. (2007), studying CDV from a variety of different hosts, found that molecular adaptation at known receptor-binding sites of the haemagglutinin gene was associated with independent instances of the spread of the virus to novel hosts.
Host AnimalsTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
|Host and vector organisms||Feral domestic dogs; wild animals||Yes||Yes|
Economic ImpactTop of page
While there may be little economic impact of canine distemper in terms of agriculture, there is certainly impact associated with declines in wildlife populations or individuals. These impacts can be felt most significantly in zoos and wildlife parks around the world, in addition to the increased efforts, and cost of operations, of various wildlife conservation groups. Additionally, pet owners spend a significant amount of money each year obtaining canine distemper vaccination for their dogs (or other domestic pets susceptible to the disease).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Biodiversity
Canine distemper virus can have a significant effect on wildlife populations.
The most intensively studied CDV outbreak has been in the African lions (Panthera leo) of the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. In 1994, a large epidemic, which had probably spread from domestic dogs (Cleaveland et al., 2000), caused fatalities in ~30% of the population (Roelke-Parker et al., 1996). By 1994, 85% of the Serengeti lion population had anti-CDV antibodies and the epidemic had spread north to lions in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya; by 1996, it was estimated that only 2,000 Serengeti lions remained (Roelke-Parker et al., 1996), although the population recovered quickly (Gilbert et al., 2014). In addition to the lions, other carnivore species, including leopards (Panthera pardus), hyenas (Hyaenidae), bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis), jackals, and domestic dogs were affected during the 1994 CDV outbreak. Extinction of the endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) in the Serengeti coincided with epizootic canine distemper in sympatric domestic dogs (Daszak et al., 2000).
As well as the species mentioned in the previous paragraph, studies cited by McCarthy et al. (2007) report mass mortalities in palm civets (Paguma larvata), red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), raccoons (Procyon lotor) and black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes); the last remnant wild population of the latter species (before more recent reintroductions), in Wyoming, USA, was reportedly extirpated by CDV. Timm et al. (2009) conclude that CDV was probably the cause of a precipitous decline in the population of the endangered Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae) on Santa Catalina island, California, USA (in contrast, elsewhere in California there is no evidence that disease has a significant impact on the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox, Vulpes macrotis mutica [muticus], despite a high prevalence of antibodies to CDV – US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010).
Gilbert et al. (2014) modelled the effects of CDV on Amur Tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), in which infection has recently been diagnosed, and concluded that the 50-year risk of extinction in their study area was between 6.3% and 55.8% higher (depending on the scenario used) in the presence of the virus than in its absence.
The Threatened Species table lists some more species considered to be threatened by the virus.
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Ailurus fulgens||VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)||China||Pathogenic||Qin et al. (2007a); Qin et al. (2007b)|
|Canis simensis||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Ethiopia||Pathogenic||Gordon et al. (2015)|
|Lycaon pictus (African wild dog)||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Pathogenic||Deem et al. (2000)|
|Lynx pardinus||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Spain||Pathogenic||Meli et al. (2010)|
|Mustela nigripes (Black-footed Ferret)||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Mexico; USA||Pathogenic||Wimsatt et al. (2006)||Reintroduced populations are vaccinated|
|Panthera tigris altaica||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Russian Far East||Pathogenic||Seimon et al. (2013)|
|Panthera uncia||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Pathogenic||Fix et al. (1989)||in Central and South Asia|
|Urocyon littoralis catalinae (Santa Catalina Island fox)||USA ESA listing as threatened species||California||Pathogenic||Timm et al. (2009)|
|Vulpes macrotis mutica (San Joaquin kit fox)||USA ESA listing as endangered species||California||Pathogenic||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010)|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Has high reproductive potential
- Reproduces asexually
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Given the recent large outbreaks of canine distemper in various species of nonhuman primates (see the ‘Zoonoses and food safety’ section in the canine distemper datasheet), additional research should be focused on the potential of the virus to infect humans and become established as a human pathogen. Have humans been infected with CDV in the past? Are there chronic diseases in humans (or diseases thought to be of a non-infectious nature) that are the result of CDV infection?
Additionally, further epidemiological studies are needed to track the spread of this virus, particularly into endangered wildlife species.
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
11/08/15: Original text by:
Chris A. Whitehouse, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, 1425 Porter Street, Fort Detrick, Maryland 21702, USA