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Inclusion Body Disease diagnostics and FAQ on IBD2015-02-09

Recently, several boa keepers inquired about IBD diagnostics, therefore we have gathered some informations on this particular disease, which could be useful for other boa enthusiasts, as well...

"How to diagnose IBD in boids?"

Definite diagnosis is given by a method called polimerase chain reaction, aka PCR, which confirms the presence of RNA (DNA) of the virus itself. Unfortunately, this method is fairly expensive, which makes screenings reasonable rather in high-value collections. Another difficulty is that PCR of IBD is available only in few countries these days.
Histology or pathohistology had also been used in IBD diagnostics for decades (especially prior to PCR method), however pathohistology will not give a definite diagnosis. Samples from live animals (liver) or cadaver (liver, brain) can be used. Once samples has been stained, vets are after inclusion bodies in the cytoplasm of cells, which confirms the cytopathogen effect caused by some viruses. The problem is that several species of viruses (excluding IBD agent) can cause cytopathogen effects like inclusions. Most of these virus species will never cause clinical symptoms in snake's life. In other word, it can not be determined whether the snake is IBD virus infected or not, not even if inclusions are present. Histology therefore can do nothing more than just drawing attention to some viral infection.

"Is IBD present in my country/how common it is ?"

Inclusion Body Disease is widespread, we assume it is present in every country where boid snakes are kept as pets by hobbsyts. There is no information if it would be present in wild populations, however. Our responsibility is to keep it that way, as introducing this disease to a wild population would be a diaster.
It is very hard to determine of the prevalence of IBD. To our experience, this disease turns up in animal traders/keepers where lot of snakes come from different sources most frequently . These collections are often applying uneffective quarrantine systems and have poor hygienes. Snake mites can also play an important role as vectors in the spread of IBD.

"Any way to cure IBD infected snakes?"

IBD is still incurable at this time. Carrier snakes must be strictly separated and are considered infectious for the rest of their lifes. Once definite diagnosis has been made, euthanasia is reasonable to prevent further spread. They must not be bred, either.
The key is the prevention, which can only be successfull by using effective quarrantine system and proper hygiene.

"My boa has neurological symptoms... is it IBD?"

I must emphasize that several other diseases than IBD may also cause neurological symptoms in boid snakes. Therefore boid snakes affected with those symptoms must not be considered as IBD infected as a routine. However, snake keepers must consider the possibility of IBD infection, when snakes show neurological signs, such as incoordination, "star-gazing", opistotonus, etc. Some neurological diseases can be cured by wide spectrum antibiotics and vitamins. IBD infected snakes will generally not respond to those cures and will die in short period of time, relatively.

Dr. Botond Ádám

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