Objective: To investigate the pathogenesis and transmission of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV1) by analyzing various elephant fluid samples with a novel EEHV1-specific real-time PCR assay.
Animals: 5 apparently healthy captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) from the same herd.
Procedures: A real-time PCR assay was developed that specifically detects EEHV1. The assay was used to evaluate paired whole blood and trunk-wash samples obtained from the 5 elephants during a 15-week period. Deoxyribonucleic acid sequencing and viral gene subtyping analysis were performed on trunk-wash DNA preparations that had positive results for EEHV1. Viral gene subtypes were compared with those associated with past fatal cases of herpesvirus-associated disease within the herd.
Results: The PCR assay detected viral DNA to a level of 1,200 copies/mL of whole blood. It was used to detect EEHV1 in trunk secretions of 3 of the 5 elephants surveyed during the 15-week period. Viral gene subtyping analysis identified 2 distinct elephant herpesviruses, 1 of which was identical to the virus associated with a previous fatal case of herpesvirus-associated disease within the herd.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: EEHV1 was shed in the trunk secretions of healthy Asian elephants. Trunk secretions may provide a mode of transmission for this virus. Results of this study may be useful for the diagnosis, treatment, and management of EEHV1-associated disease and the overall management of captive elephant populations.