Characterizing Clinicopathologic Features of Emerging Skunk Adenovirus 1 in Wild North American Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum)

Fellow: Shotaro Nakagun

Mentor: Sara Childs-Sanford

Co-Mentor: Elizabeth Buckles

Department of Biomedical Sciences
Sponsor: 2021 Resident Research Grants Program
Title: Characterizing Clinicopathologic Features of Emerging Skunk Adenovirus 1 in Wild North American Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum)
Project Amount: $9,963
Project Period: June 2021 to May 2022

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

Skunk adenovirus 1 (SkAdV-1) is a recently identified, emerging pathogen in eastern North America. Since its initial discovery in 2013 in a captive pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea) in Hungary, SkAdV-1 has been identified in North American wildlife including a striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), two North American porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum), and a gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) in Ontario, Canada, New York, and New Hampshire, respectively. Based on its propensity to spread between mammalian species that are not closely related, the potential impacts for wildlife health in North America are alarming.

Despite the detection of SKAdV-1 in free-ranging mammals, little information exists regarding the clinical presentation of affected animals, tissue tropism, and spectrum of lesions. Based on our preliminary findings, the virus and disease are most often detected in North American porcupines, and hence, the work outlined in this proposal will focus on this species. The objectives of this project are to: 1) establish clinical parameters for premortem diagnosis of SKAdV-1 in porcupines presenting to the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Hospital; 2) document the extent and nature of gross and microscopic lesions of affected porcupines presenting to the Anatomic Pathology service for necropsy; 3) assess the feasibility of confirming the clinical diagnosis of SkAdV-1 via PCR of conjunctival swabs versus the current gold-standard, invasive deep nasal swabs; and 4) sequence viral isolates to detect strain variation that may affect pathogenicity of the virus. To achieve these goals, we will perform standardized clinical examinations, gross and histologic pathologic examinations with RNA in situ hybridization, conventional PCR analysis, and whole genome viral sequencing.

The outcome of this project will assist clinicians, rehabilitators, pathologists, and biologists in the detection and diagnosis of SkAdV-1 infected porcupines. It may also serve as a foundation for future studies on this disease.