Updated: October 10, 2018 7:08:24 am
Scientists at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) National Institute of Virology in Pune have found active transmission of the canine distemper virus (CDV) in at least 21 lions of Gujarat’s Gir forest, officials said.
As many as 23 lions have died in the Gir sanctuary in less than a month. On October 4, ICMR officials had reported that CDV was responsible for the death for five of these lions.
ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava on Tuesday told The Indian Express that they received a total of 80 samples of nasal, ocular and rectal swabs, from 27 lions from Gir forest, who were unwell and under treatment or observation at Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh. The fresh samples were referred to ICMR-NIV on October 6.
Confirming the presence of the virus in 21 lions, Dr Bhargava said: “There is active disease transmission among the lions. The animals should be immediately vaccinated for CDV. At present, most of the available vaccines are made up of CDV American genotypes. These vaccines have been used in a number of countries and have been found to be effective.”
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Since CDV is transmitted through air as well as infected body secretions, ICMR officials have advised that healthy lions from Gir should be shifted to an another location.
Earlier too ICMR officials had said it was critical to place lions in two or three different sanctuaries to prevent spread of infectious diseases, such as CDV, and protect them from extinction.
“There are no papers about the mortality rate due to the CDV in lions. However, CDV infection once found can kill 50 per cent of adult dogs and 80 per cent of infected puppies,” ICMR officials said.
The NIV scientists have also recovered a complete genome of CDV. The sequence, which was compared to available CDV sequences, was found to be related to the East African strains, officials said.
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