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Fungal disease poses global threat to snakes2018-01-06

Snake Fungal Disease was first described in wild population of timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) barely more than a decade. Since then, several other snakes species have been associated with the same pathogen agent...

The causative agent is a fungus spacies called Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, which is an enviromental saprobe, feeding on decaying organic matter mostly. However, it is an opportunistic pathogen to several snake species. This fungus species was first recognized playing pathogen role in native timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) in the US in 2006. Since then, colubrids and pit vipers have also been associated with Snake Fungal Disease. Cases have been reported in Great Britain and in captive populations, as well.

Photo: USGS National Wildlife Health Center, D.E. Green

As for transmission, this fungus is likely to spread from the enviroment-to-snake. Animal-to-animal spread has not been confirmed.
Average incubation period is estimated between 30-37 days, with some snakes showing clinical signs as early as day 12 after infection. The characteristic clinical sign of Snake Fungal Disease is facial swelling, however as the disease progresses nasal cavity, eyes, lungs may become affected, as well. Skin lesions, blisters are also commonly seen.

Photo: USGS National Wildlife Health Center, D.E. Green

Average survival is about 90 days, with the mortality rate being around 40%. In other words, almost half of infected snakes will die.

Diagnostics involve skin biopsy, fungal culture and polimerase chain reaction (PCR). Antifungal treatments have been non-responsive in colubrids.

Until this day, Snake Fungal Disease associated with Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola has not been described in boas or pythons.


Dr. Botond Ádám

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