Sunshine virus in Australian pythons

Vet Microbiol. 2012 Dec 28;161(1-2):77-87. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2012.07.030. Epub 2012 Jul 27.


Sunshine virus is a recently discovered novel paramyxovirus that is associated with illness in snakes. It does not phylogenetically cluster within either of the two currently accepted paramyxoviral subfamilies. It is therefore only distantly related to the only other known genus of reptilian paramyxoviruses, Ferlavirus, which clusters within the Paramyxovirinae subfamily. Clinical and diagnostic aspects associated with Sunshine virus are as yet undescribed. The objective of this paper was to report the clinical presentation, virus isolation, PCR testing and pathology associated with Sunshine virus infection. Clinical records and samples from naturally occurring cases were obtained from two captive snake collections and the archives of a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. The clinical signs that are associated with Sunshine virus infection are localised to the neurorespiratory systems or are non-specific (e.g. lethargy, inappetence). Out of 15 snakes that were infected with Sunshine virus (detected in any organ by either virus isolation or PCR), the virus was isolated from four out of ten (4/10) sampled brains, 3/10 sampled lungs and 2/7 pooled samples of kidney and liver. In these same 15 snakes, PCR was able to successfully detect Sunshine virus in fresh-frozen brain (11/11), kidney (7/8), lung (8/11) and liver (5/8); and various formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues (7/8). During a natural outbreak of Sunshine virus in a collection of 32 snakes, the virus could be detected in five out of 39 combined oral-cloacal swabs that were collected from 23 of these snakes over a 105 day period. All snakes that were infected with Sunshine virus were negative for reovirus and ferlavirus by PCR. Snakes infected with Sunshine virus reliably exhibited hindbrain white matter spongiosis and gliosis with extension to the surrounding grey matter and neuronal necrosis evident in severe cases. Five out of eight infected snakes also exhibited mild bronchointerstitial pneumonia. Infection with Sunshine virus should be considered by veterinarians investigating disease outbreaks in snakes, particularly those that are associated with neurorespiratory disease.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Boidae / virology*
  • Female
  • Liver / virology
  • Lung / virology
  • Male
  • Nervous System Diseases / veterinary*
  • Nervous System Diseases / virology
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / diagnosis
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / pathology
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / veterinary*
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / virology
  • Paramyxovirinae / classification
  • Paramyxovirinae / genetics
  • Paramyxovirinae / isolation & purification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction