Sunday, October 29, 2006

URGENT: Adenovirus in Bearded Dragons

Cheri Smith of The Reptile Rooms posted the following on their website a few days ago. After reading the article, it has been included here -- as a resource for correct information regarding the adenovirus affecting bearded dragons.

In the past week, much misinformation about adenovirus was being circulated in emails and verbally to keepers and breeders of bearded dragons. These erroneous statements continued to grow and became alarming as they were giving dangerously wrong information about something that is affecting some breeder's colonies and can affect the entire population of bearded dragons in the US.
This inaccurate information was also being used by a breeder that was selling adenovirus positive bearded dragons to the public as he felt what was stated, made it an acceptable practice. I contacted the universities and veterinarians that a mass mailings of informational flyers were suppose to be quoting and also names from personal emails to me. In all cases, the veterinarians and universities denied this was information coming from them, anyone on their staff or that these comments were accurate.
Each was provided the same flyer type email that was mass mailed to individuals. Elliot Jacobson, DVM, PhD, DACZM Professor of Zoological Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville was gracious enough to take the time from his very busy schedule to respond in emails, called me to review them and why he feels this is happening. He also provided the following information to be shared with our community in hopes this can dispel some of this misinformation until his staff can complete a page dedicated to this topic in bearded dragons, on their new website. Please read the following letter from him and reprinted with his permission to interested individuals in this industry.
TO: Cheri Smith
FROM: Elliott Jacobson
SUBJECT: Bearded dragon adenovirus

It has been brought to my attention that misinformation attributed to me is circulating concerning adenovirus infection of bearded dragons (BD).
A major problem is that despite our attempts to educate people who call us about this and other health issues of reptiles, those people lacking a medical background have a very real problem understanding what we are saying or may use what we discussed out of context. At times bits and pieces of things are heard and then weaved into something entirely different than what was originally stated.
My own opinion is that adenovirus is a significant health issue and a major effort is needed to eliminate this virus from breeding groups of BD. While we know relatively little about the biology and pathogenicity of this virus in bearded dragons, and that much research is needed to determine its overall health impact, it is my impression from cases that I have seen that this virus can result in severe hepatic necrosis (liver disease) and death. Thus known positive animals should never be sold in the pet trade. It may turn out that there may be different strains of this virus in bearded dragons that cause different degrees of mortality. This eventually needs to be studied. Outcomes of lizards that are infected need to be studied. How long can a BD shed virus? The questions go on and on. Ultimately, transmission studies are needed to show that a specific virus can kill lizards.
But, in the meantime, with more than 30 years of experience working with reptile pathogens I consider the adenovirus we have seen in bearded dragons a pathogen. It may act as a primary pathogen in certain cases while in others it may work in concert with other pathogens. Or, it is possible that a latent infection (one in which the virus is still present in low numbers somewhere in the animal's body) becomes active after "something" suppresses the animal's immune system. Still, the virus is a pathogen and an animal is certainly better off if it is not infected in the first place. The severe necrosis of the liver that is often seen with BDs infected with this virus is similar to the liver disease seen in other animals, including other reptiles, infected with adenovirus.
A similar adenovirus has been seen in boa constrictors having severe hepatic necrosis and transmission studies have been done to show that this virus can result in mortality
(Jacobson ER, Gaskin JM, Gardiner CH. 1985. Adenovirus-like infection in a boa constrictor. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 187:1226-1227). I have seen a similar virus in other snakes dying with severe hepatic necrosis and in lizards other than bearded dragons having various clinical signs of illness and lesions (Wellehan JFX, Johnson AJ, Harrach B, Benko M, Pessier AP, Johnson CM, Garner MM, Childress C, Jacobson ER. 2004. Detection and analysis of six lizard adenoviruses by consensus primer PCR provides further evidence of a reptilian origin for the atadenoviruses. J Virol 78:13366-13369). These reports make it clear that this is not a benign agent.
Frye FL, MunnRJ, Gardner M, Barten SL, Hadfy LB. 1994. Adenovirus-like hepatitis in a group of related Rankin's dragon lizards (Pogono henrylawsoni) J Zoo Wildl Med 25:167-171.
Jacobson ER, Gaskin JM, Gardiner CH. 1985. Adenovirus-like infection in a boa constrictor. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 187:1226-1227
Jacobson ER, Kopit W, O'Brien B. 1996. Co-infection of a Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps, with Adeno- and Dependo-like Viruses. Vet Path. 33:343-346
Julian AF, Durham JK. 1985. Adenoviral hepatitis in a bearded dragon (Amphibolurus barbatus). N Z Vet J 30:59-60.

Kim DY, Mitchell MA, Bauer RW, Poston R, Cho DY. 2002. An outbreak of adenoviral infection in inland bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) coinfected with dependovirus and coccidial protozoa (Isospora sp.). J Vet Diagn Invest 14:332-334.
Wellehan JFX, Johnson AJ, Harrach B, Benko M, Pessier AP, Johnson CM, Garner MM, Childress C, Jacobson ER. 2004. Detection and analysis of six lizard adenoviruses by consensus primer PCR provides further evidence of a reptilian origin for the atadenoviruses. J Virol 78:13366-13369

I hope this provides some useful information.

With best regards,
Elliott Jacobson, DVM, PhD, DACZM
Professor of Zoological Medicine
University of Florida
We [The Reptile Rooms] greatly appreciate the time that went into preparing this statement to the community that was very much needed by someone who is respected for all he has done and continues to do to help reptiles and their keepers. Elliott Jacobson has dedicated his life to research in the viral field and took the time out from working on a much needed grant request that must be completed and turned in next month. If anyone has had to prepare a grant request, you know the time that has to go into it and the pressure to put as much time into preparing them as you can.
We would like to not only thank him, but also show him we also support his work. Reptile Rooms will donate to his viral research and will also give 100% of all donations though this site for the next week to his projects, with accounting and the names of all that also donate. If you found the above information helpful to you or want to help support IBD, paramyxo or adenovirus research, please give what you can by either clicking on the paypal donation button or emailing for directions on sending a check or money order that will be forwarded to his funding account. CheriS (

1 comment:

Karen from Justin said...

I recently had a 2-1/2 year old lovely bd die from the adenovirus. It was depressing seeing her so ill, and my son and I are very sad that she died.
We do, however, want to bring another bd in our home. My concern is how long does the virus live outside the infected animal?, and what can I do at home to disinfect the aquarium and supplies so I can feel safe in bringing in another bd?