Canine Distemper Virus: Wildlife Conservation Implications

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Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a viral pathogen that is commonly known for its ability to infect domestic dogs, though it affects many other species. This single-stranded, negative-sense RNA virus belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family and the genus Morbillivirus [1]. CDV is highly contagious, spreading through aerosol droplets and bodily fluids. Generally, the virus initially replicates in the respiratory tract where it enters the blood stream and spreads to lymphoid, nervous, and epithelial tissues [2]. While symptoms depend on the host species as well as the strain and severity of the virus, CDV often causes fever, ocular discharge, lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, seizure, paralysis, and the thickening of feet pads [3]. Although much research on this virus concentrates on its relationship to domestic dogs, CDV affects many mammal families such as Canidae (domestic and wild canids), Ursidae (bears), Pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, etc.), and Felidae (wild cats), to name a few [4]. Due to the wide range of potential hosts and the easy transmission pathway from domestic dogs to wildlife, CDV poses a significant threat to the conservation efforts of many threatened mammals. This report attempts to summarize current research on CDV as well as provide insight on how the virus affects wildlife, particularly, the conservation of threatened species.

Baltimore Classification

Higher Order Taxa

Group V: (−) sense single-stranded RNA viruse

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Virion and Genome Structure

All Morbilliviruses, including CDV, are virions enveloped by a lipid bilayer containing a single-stranded, negative-sense RNA genome [5]. CDV virus particles typically are between 150-300 nm in diameter [6].Their genomes code for six structural proteins in the following order: N (nucleocapsid), P (phosphoprotein). M (matrix protein). F (fusion protein). H (hemagglutinin protein), and L (large protein). They also code for V and C, two non-structural proteins [7]. The P and L proteins are coupled and attached to the N protein, which surrounds the genome to form the nucleocapsid. The P protein serves as the co-factor for the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (L protein) [7]. The two glycoproteins, H and F, are spikes embedded in the lipid bilayer that mediate fusion between other cells. The envelope-associated M protein is evenly arranged underneath the lipid bilayer and regulates the two glycoproteins in addition to linking the nucleoplasmid with these proteins [7].

The CDV genome consists of 15,616 nucleotides and parallels the genomes of other morbilliviruses, particularly that of its closest relative, the measles virus (MV) [8]. This genome begins with the putative regulatory 3' leader (55 nucleotides long) that directly precedes the N gene, which is then followed by the P, M, F, H, and L genes. Between the L gene and the end of the CDV genome (the 5' terminus), lies the putative 5' leader region (38 nucleotides long) [9]. The putative sequences direct the transcription and replication of the genome. Intergenic sequences, located at the 3' and 5' ends of every structural gene segment control transcription termination and reinitiation [10].

Ecology and Transmission

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Signs and Symptoms

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Prevention and Treatment

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Effect on Wildlife Conservation

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Edited by student of Joan Slonczewski for BIOL 238 Microbiology, 2018, Kenyon College.