Diseases impacting lion populations: Epidemic Diseases

By ALERT
Last updated 7 Mar 2012

 

Epidemic diseases impacting lion (Panthera leo) populations


Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB)

Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) was introduced in the southern part of Kruger National Park [1] by domestic cattle.  The disease has spread northwards through infected African buffalos (Syncerus caffer) with serious concerns for the viability of the Kruger lion population as well as the development of the Greater Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation area [1-2]. Aside from the clinical effects of bTB leading to greater mortality in affected populations the prevalence of the disease within Kruger has also been shown to drive social change with lower lion survival and breeding success with more frequent male coalition turnover and consequent higher infanticide [1].

Elsewhere, among the Serengeti lions, 4% of animals tested were seropositive for bTB [3].  The disease is also present in reserves adjacent to Kruger NP including Hluhuwe-iMfolozi [1].  bTB also occurs among buffalos in Queen Elizabeth NP, Uganda, although so far not observed among resident lions [4], and also among lechwe (Kobus leche) in Zambia’s Kafue NP [5].  Lions in Mozambique’s Niassa reserve have tested negative for the disease (Colleen Begg, pers comms. 2011)


Canine Distemper (CDV)

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) affects both free-living and captive carnivores worldwide, and is now recognised as a cause of large-scale epidemics in felids [1-2]. Primarily transmission is by aerosol transfer or contact with bodily exudates containing the virus. Clinical symptoms mainly affect the respiratory, gastro-intestinal and central nervous systems, causing grand mal seizures and myoclonus with mortalities usually occurring due to encephalitis or pneumonia [1-3].

Lion populations in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem experienced two major CDV epidemics in 1994 and 2001, with the disease originating in domestic dogs [3-4]. The 2001 outbreak in the Ngorongoro Crater caused 35% mortality among its small population of lions [4], while the 1994 outbreak that hit the Serengeti National Park lions, spreading North to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve infected 85% of lions causing mortalities in a third of the 3000 strong population [3]. Several other carnivore species were also affected and a single CDV variant was found circulating in lions, spotted hyenas, bat-eared foxes, and domestic dogs, suggesting extensive inter-specific transmission [3, 5-6].

Possible explanations for such high mortality rates of infection in these outbreaks include the emergence of a particularly virulent strain of CDV, repeated introduction due to multi-host disease spill-over and climate extremes, coinciding with both outbreaks, which created conditions exacerbating the immunosuppressive effects of infection, which may otherwise have been tolerated in isolation [7-10].

CDV antibodies have also been detected in Central Kalahari lions and in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park [11-12]. CDV has been, and continues to be, present across much of Southern Africa, in its domestic dog and wild carnivore populations [13-17].  Lions in Mozambique’s Niassa reserve have tested negative for the disease (Colleen Begg, pers comms. 2011)       


Feline Parvovirus (FPV)

Also known as feline infectious enteritis (FIE) or feline panleukopenia, feline parvovirus (FPV) is an acute, enteric, viral infection of domestic and exotic felines caused by a single stranded DNA virus, from the Parvoviridae family [1]

Parvovirus is very stable in the environment and indirect transmission can spread rapidly.  In naïve populations this can be the cause of high mortality [2]

Clinical symptoms include depression, vomiting and diarrhoea. Ataxia (tremors and jerky movements) may also ensue due to cerebellar hypoplasia which will be more noticeable in young cubs [1].

Antibody titers for FPV are highly prevalent in Serengeti populations (75%) but less so in the nearby Ngorongoro Crater population (27%).  Other locations with published results include Laka Manyara region (60%), Kruger National Park (84%), Etosha National Park (0%) [3] and Central Kalahari Game Reserves (0%) [4] .


Feline Calicivirus (FCV)

Feline Calicivirus (FCV) has been well documented among domestic felines; more so than exotic felids. Nevertheless, this highly prevalent pathogen has been found to have infected wild members of the Felidae [1-3], and the nature, severity and clinical signs associated with FCV in exotic felines are similar to those reported in domestic cats [3].

FCV is related to upper respiratory tract diseases and can be identified by rhinitis, pneumonia, fever, lameness and oral ulcerations [3-4]. The FCV strain usually causes temporary infection and appears to be harmless in most cases [5]. However, upon recovery, the infected host may still act as an asymptomatic carrier [5]; potentially infecting those who are susceptible to the disease. 

Outbreaks of the virus have been reported in different lion populations residing in Africa. The prevalence rate has fluctuated in each population, with FCV being absent from the small, isolated Crater population in Ngorongoro [1,5], to occurring at low prevalence in Botswana [2], to being highly prevalent in the Serengeti Plains [1]. This suggests that the FCV infection occurs in populations of high density, with outbreaks increasing as the size of the susceptible host population grows [5]. 


Feline Coronavirus (FCoV)

Feline Coronavirus is an upper respiratory infection not dissimilar to FHV, which is transmitted by various routes; faecal, oral and possibly aerosolized. It can infect domestic animals such as dogs and in cats has been known to develop into the more pathogenic feline infectious peritonitis [1]. It has also been found to be the cause of high mortality in domestic kittens [2].

Like many of the other epidemic diseases (such as parvovirus or calicivirus) found in serological studies of lions there have been no consistent signs of clinical disease for FCoV [3-7].

Unlike the endemic diseases, FCoV is an epidemic disease, and thus has different implications for wild lion populations. Epidemic diseases by nature briefly sweep through a population often inflicting a high mortality rate however, due to this high mortality and a lack of further susceptible hosts the initial bursts are short lived. The disease will then return through the population at a later date once there are sufficient numbers of susceptible individuals, known cases of this include coronavirus, parvovirus and calicivirus in the Serengeti lion population [6]. FCoV has been found in varying levels of population infection throughout African lion populations [3-5].


Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a viral disease caused by some strains of feline coronavirus (FCoV) either by mutation of the virus or by an aberration of the immune response.  Cats with weak immune systems such as young or old cats and those infected with feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) are at particular risk from developing FIP from FCoV.

An intense inflammatory reaction occurs around vessels in the tissue; often in the abdomen, kidney or brain.  The virus is unique in that antibodies actually assist the infection of white blood cells of the FIP virus.  Clinical FIP is progressive and almost always fatal. Symptoms include inappetance, weight loss, depression, anemia, fever and roughening of the fur.  Fluid may also accumulate in the abdomen causing difficulty in breathing when accumulation becomes significant. [1]

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References for Bovine Tuberculosis

[1} Michel AL, Bengis RG, Keet DF, Hofmeyr M, de Klerk LM, Cross PC, Jolles AE, Cooper D, Whyte IJ, Buss P, Godfroid J (2006): Wildlife tuberculosis in South African conservation areas: Implications and challenges (pdf)

[2] Winterbach CW, Winterbach H, Kat P, Sechele LM (2000) Coordinated dry season lion survey for the Okavango Delta, 1998. Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Botswana.  (Unpublished report)

[3} Cleaveland S, Mlengeya T, Kazwala RR, Michel A, Kaare MT, Jones SL, Eblate E, Shirima GM, Packer C (2005) Tuberculosis in Tanzanian Wildlife. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 41: 446-453 (pdf).

[4] Siefert L (ed.) (2000) Uganda Large Predator & Scavenger Research & Management Project Training Workshop Report: Large Predators - Data, Protocols, Viability, 23 July- 2 August 2000, Mweya, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. LPP/WARM Dept., Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.  (Unpublished report)

[5} Pandey GS (1998) Studies of infectious diseases of Kafue lechwe (Kobus leche kafuensis) with particular reference to tuberculosis in Zambia. PhD thesis. Azabu University, India; 1998. pp. 1–120. (Unpublished report)


References for Canine Distemper

[1] Williams, E  (2001) Canine Distemper P. 50 In Williams E and Barker I (eds.), Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals, Third Edition.  Iowa State University Press, USA. (Book - purchase required)

[2] Appel MJ, Yates RA, Foley GL, Bernstein JJ, Santinelli S, Spelman LH, Miller LD, Arp LH, Anderson M, Barr M, Pearce-Kelling S, Summers BA (1994) Canine distemper epizootic in lions, tigers, and leopards in North America.  Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 6: 277–288.  (pdf)

[3] Roelke-Parker ME, Munson L, Packer C, Kock R, Cleaveland S, Carpenter M, O’Brien SJ, Pospischil A, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Lutz, H, Mwamengele GLM, Mgasa MN, Machange GA, Summers BA, Appel MJG (1996) A canine distemper virus epidemic in Serengeti lions (Panthera leo). Nature 379: 441-445. (pdf)

[4] Kissui BM, Packer C (2004) Top-down regulation of a top predator: lions in the Ngorongoro Crater.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Science 271: 1867–1874. (pdf)

[5] Carpenter MA, Appel MJG, Roelke-Parker ME, Munson L, Hofer H, East M, O'Brien SJ (1998) Genetic characterization of canine distemper virus in Serengeti carnivores. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 65: 259-266. (pdf - purchase required)

[6] Haas L, Hofer H, East M, Wohlsein P, Liess B, Barrett T (1996) Canine distemper virus infection in Serengeti spotted hyenas. Veterinary Microbiology 49: 147–152. (pdf - purchase required)

[7] Packer C, Altizer S, Appel M, Brown E, Martenson J, O’ Brien SJ, Roelke-Parker ME, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Lutz H (1999) Viruses of the Serengeti: patterns of infection and mortality in African lions. Journal of Animal Ecology 68: 1161–1178. (pdf)

[8] Craft ME, Hawthorne PL, Packer C, Dobson AP (2008) Dynamics of a multi-host pathogen in a carnivore community.  Journal of Animal Ecology 77: 1257–1264. (pdf)

[9] Craft ME, Volz E, Packer C, Meyers LA (2009) Distinguishing epidemic waves from disease spill-over in a wildlife population.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Science 276: 1777–1785. (pdf)

[10] Munson L, Terio KA, Kock R, Mlengeya T, Roelke ME, Dubovi E, Summers B, Sinclair ARE, Packer C (2008) Climate Extremes Promote Fatal Co-Infections during Canine Distemper Epidemics in African Lions. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2545. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002545 (pdf)

[11] Ramsauer S, Bay G, Meli M, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Lutz H (2007) Seroprevalence of selected infectious agents in a free-ranging, low-density lion population in the Central Kalahari Game Reserves in Botswana. Clinical Vaccine Immunology 14: 808–810. (pdf)

[12] Driciru M, Siefert L, Prager KC, Dubovi E, Sande R, Princee F, Friday T, Munson L (2006)  A Serosurvey of Viral Infections in Lions (Panthera leo), from Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 42, 667-671. (pdf)

[13] Kelly PJ, Musuka G, Eoghin GN, Tebje-Kelly JB, Carter S (2005)  Serosurvey for canine distemper virus exposure in dogs in communal lands in Zimbabwe. Journal of the South African Veterinary Association 76: 104-106. (abstract

[14] Gowtage-Sequeira S, Banyard AC, Barrett T, Buczkowski H, Funk SM, Cleaveland S (2009) Epidemiology, pathology, and genetic analysis of a canine distemper epidemic in Namibia.  Journal of Wildlife Diseases 45: 1008-1020. (pdf)

[15] Munson L, Marker L,  Dubovi E, Spencer JA, Everman JF, O'Brien SJ (2004) Serosurvey of viral infections in free-ranging Namibian cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus). Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 40: 23-31. (pdf)

[16] Spencer JA, Bingham J, Heath R, Richards B (1999) Presence of antibodies to canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus type 1 in free-ranging jackals (Canis adustus and Canis mesomelas) in Zimbabwe. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 66: 251-25. (html)

[17] Alexander KA, Kat PW, Munson LA, Kalake A, Appel M JG (1996) Canine distemper related mortality among wild dog (Lycaon pictus) in Chobe National Park Botswana. Journal Zoo Wildlife Medicine 27: 426-7. (pdf – purchase required)

Further Reading:

Serological and Demographic Evidence for Domestic Dogs as a Source of Canine Distemper Virus Infection for Serengeti Wildlife (pdf)
Cleaveland S, Appel MG, Chalmers WS, Chillingworth C, Kaare M, Dye C (2000) Veterinary Microbiology 72: 217–27.

The Canine Distemper Epidemic in Serengeti: Are Lions Victims of a New Highly Virulent Canine Distemper Virus Strain, Or Is Pathogen Circulation Stochasticity To Blame? (pdf)
Guiserix M, Bahi-Jaber N, Fouchet D, Sauvage F, Pontier D (2007)  Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 4: 1127-1134.

Phylogenetic Evidence for Canine Distemper Virus in Serenegti’s Lions (pdf)                                                                                                                       
Harder TC, Kenter M, Appel MJG, Roelke-Parker ME, Barrett, T, Osterhaus ADME. (1995) Vaccine 13: 521–523.

Canine Distemper in Terrestrial Carnivores: A Review (pdf)
Deem SL, Spelman LH, Yates RA, Montali RJ (2000)  Journal Zoo Wildlife Medicine 31: 441-451.

The Conservation Relevance of Epidemiological Research Into Carnivore Viral Diseases in the Serengeti (pdf)
Cleaveland S, Mlengeya T, Kaare M, Haydon D, Lembo T, Laurenson MK, Packer C (2007) Conservation Biology 21: 612–622.


References for Feline Parvovirus

[1] Tilley LP, Smith FWK (2008) Blackwells Five Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline.  Blackwell Publishing pp 492 – 493.  (book – purchase required)

2] Parrish CR (1995), Pathogenesis of feline panleukopenia virus and canine parvovirus.  Baillière's Clinical Haematology 8 (1) 57-71 (pdf – purchase required)

[3]  Hofmann-Lehmann R, Fehr D, Grob M, Elgizoli M, Packer C, Martenson JS, O’Brien SJ, Lutz H (1996) Prevalence of antibodies to feline parvovirus, calicivirus, herpesvirus, coronavirus, and immunodeficiency virus and of feline leukemia virus antigen and the interrelationship of these viral infections in free-ranging lions in east Africa, Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology 3: 554–562. (pdf).

[4] Ramsauer S, Bay G, Meli M, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Lutz H (2007) Seroprevalence of Selected Infectious Agents in a Free-Ranging, Low-Density Lion Population in the Central Kalahari Game Reserves in Botswana.  Clinical and Vaccine Immunology: 808–810 (pdf)

Further reading:

Fatal Infection with Feline Panleukopenia Virus in Two Captive Wild Carnivores (Panthera tigris and Panthera leo) (pdf – purchase required)
Duarte MD, Barros SC, Henriques M, Lobo-Fernandes T, Bernardino R, Monteiro M, Fevereiro M (2009) Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 40 (2) 354-359

Specific identification of feline panleukopenia virus and its rapid differentiation from canine parvoviruses using minor groove binder probes (pdf – purchase required
Decaro N, Desarioa C, Lucentea MS, Amoriscoa F, Campoloa M, Eliaa G, Cavallia A, Martellaa V, Buonavoglia C (2008)  Journal of Virological Methods 147 (1) 67-71


References for Feline Calicivirus

[1] Hofmann-Lehmann R, Fehr D, Grob M, Elgizoli M, Packer C, Martenson JS, O’Brien SJ, Lutz H (1996). Prevalence of antibodies to feline parvovirus, calicivirus, herpesvirus, coronavirus, and immunodeficiency virus and of feline leukemia virus antigen and the interrelationship of these viral infections in free-ranging lions in East Africa. Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology 3: 554–562 (pdf)

[2] Ramsauer S, Bay G, Meli M, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Lutz H (2007). Seroprevalence of selected infectious agents in a free-ranging, low-density lion population in the Central Kalahari game reserves in Botswana. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology 14: 808 – 810 (pdf)

[3] Harrison TM, Sikarskie J, Kruger J, Wise A, Mullaney TP, Kiupel M, Maes RK (2007). Systemic calicivirus epidemic in captive exotic felids. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 38: 292-299 (pdf – purchase required)

[4] Radford AD, Coyne KP, Dawson S, Porter CJ, Gaskell RM (2007). Feline calicivirus. Veterinary Research 38: 319-335 (pdf)   

[5] Packer C, Altizer S, Appel M, Brown E, Martenson J, O’Brien SJ, Roelke-Parker M, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Lutz H (1999) Viruses of the Serengeti: patterns of infection and mortality in African lions. Journal of Animal Ecology 68: 1161-1178  (pdf)

Further reading:

Norovirus in captive lion cub (Panthera leo). (pdf)
Martella V, Campolo M, Lorusso E, Cavicchio P, Camero M, Bellacicco AL, Decaro N, Elia G, Greco G, Corrente M, Desario C, Arista S, Banyai K, Koopmans M, Buonavoglia C (2007) Emerging Infectious Diseases 13: 1071-1073.

A strain of calicivirus isolated from lions with vesicular lesions on tongue and snout. (pdf – purchase required)
Kadoi K, Kiryu M, Iwabuchi M, Kamata H, Yukawa M, Inaba Y (1997) New Microbiologica 20 (2): 141-148.

A serosurvey of viral infections in lions (Panthera leo), from Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. (pdf)
Driciru M, Siefert L, Prager KC, Dubovi E, Sande R, Princee F, Friday T, Munson L (2006). Journal of Wildlife Diseases 42: 667-671

Infectious diseases of wild mammals. (e - book)
Williams ES, Barker IK (2000). 3rd ed. USA: Iowa State University Press. 288 – 291

Antibody response of lions inoculated with inactivated calicivirus vaccine experimentally prepared. (pdf – purchase required)
Kadoi K, Kiryu M, Inaba Y (1998) New Microbiologica 21 (2): 147-151.


References for Feline Coronovirus

[1] Addie DD, Jarrett O (2006) Feline Coronavirus Infections.  In: Infectious diseases of the dog and cat (ed. Greene CE) WB Saunders, Philadelphia, pp. 88-102. (book – purchase required)

[2] Gaskell RM, Dawson S, Radford AD (2006) Feline Respiratory Disease.  In: Infectious diseases of the dog and cat (ed. Greene CE) WB Saunders, Philadelphia, pp. 145-154. (book – purchase required)

[3] Spencer JA (1991) Survey of antibodies to feline viruses in free-ranging lions. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 21, 59-61.

[4] Spencer JA, Morkel P (1993) Serological survey of sera from lions in Etosha National Park. S.-Afr. Tydskr. Natuurnav., 23, 60-61.

[5] Hofmann-Lehmann R, Fehr D, Grob M, Elgizoli M, Packer C, Martenson JS, O’Brien SJ, Lutz H (1996) Prevalence of antibodies to feline parvovirus, calicivirus, herpesvirus, coronavirus, and immunodeficiency virus and of feline leukemia virus antigen and the interrelationship of these viral infections in free-ranging lions in east Africa, Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology 3: 554–562. (pdf).

[6] Packer C, Altizer S, Appel M, Brown E, Martenson J, O’Brien SJ, Roelke-Parker M, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Lutz H (1999) Viruses of the Serengeti: patterns of infection and mortality in African lions. Journal of Animal Ecology 68: 1161-1178  (pdf)

[7] Driciru M, Siefert L, Prager KC, Dubovi E, Sande R, Princee F, Friday T, Munson L (2006) A serosurvey of viral infections in lions (Panthera leo), from Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. . Journal of Wildlife Diseases 42: 667-671 (pdf)

Further reading:

Emerging Viruses in the Felidae: Shifting Paradigms (pdf)
O’Brien SJ, Troyer JL, Brown MA, Johnson WE, Antunes A, Roelke ME, Pecon-Slattery J (2012). Viruses 4: 236-257 


References for Feline Infectious Peritonitis

[1]  Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine (2011).  http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/brochures/fip.html.  Accessed 6 Nov 11.  (html)

Further reading:

Emerging Viruses in the Felidae: Shifting Paradigms (pdf)
O’Brien SJ, Troyer JL, Brown MA, Johnson WE, Antunes A, Roelke ME, Pecon-Slattery J (2012). Viruses 4: 236-257