Detection of nidoviruses in live pythons and boas

Tierarztl Prax Ausg K Kleintiere Heimtiere. 2017 Feb 9;45(1):22-26. doi: 10.15654/TPK-151067. Epub 2016 Oct 13.
[Article in English, German]


Objectives: Nidoviruses have recently been described as a putative cause of severe respiratory disease in pythons in the USA and Europe. The objective of this study was to establish the use of a conventional PCR for the detection of nidoviruses in samples from live animals and to extend the list of susceptible species.

Materials and methods: A PCR targeting a portion of ORF1a of python nidoviruses was used to detect nidoviruses in diagnostic samples from live boas and pythons. A total of 95 pythons, 84 boas and 22 snakes of unknown species were included in the study. Samples tested included oral swabs and whole blood.

Results: Nidoviruses were detected in 27.4% of the pythons and 2.4% of the boas tested. They were most commonly detected in ball pythons (Python [P.] regius) and Indian rock pythons (P. molurus), but were also detected for the first time in other python species, including Morelia spp. and Boa constrictor. Oral swabs were most commonly tested positive.

Conclusion: The PCR described here can be used for the detection of nidoviruses in oral swabs from live snakes. These viruses appear to be relatively common among snakes in captivity in Europe and screening for these viruses should be considered in the clinical work-up.

Clinical relevance: Nidoviruses are believed to be an important cause of respiratory disease in pythons, but can also infect boas. Detection of these viruses in live animals is now possible and can be of interest both in diseased animals as well as in quarantine situations.

Keywords: Boa constrictor; Morelia; PCR; coronavirus; reptile; snake; torovirus.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Boidae / virology*
  • Mouth / virology
  • Nidovirales / genetics
  • Nidovirales / isolation & purification*
  • Nidovirales Infections / diagnosis
  • Nidovirales Infections / veterinary*
  • Nidovirales Infections / virology
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary
  • RNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / veterinary*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology


  • RNA, Viral