Fatal ranavirus infection in a group of zoo-housed meller's chameleons (trioceros melleri)

Lauren B. Peiffer, Samantha Sander, Kathleen Gabrielson, Allan P. Pessier, Matthew C. Allender, Thomas Waltzek, Kuttichantran Subramaniam, Natalie Stilwell, Laura Adamovicz, Ellen Bronson, Lisa M. Mangus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A group of five juvenile Meller's chameleons (Trioceros melleri) experienced 100% mortality over a period of 1 mo due to ranavirus infection. The index case was found dead without premonitory signs. The three subsequent cases presented with nonspecific clinical signs (lethargy, decreased appetite, ocular discharge) and were ultimately euthanatized. The final case died after initially presenting with skin lesions. Postmortem examination revealed thin body condition in all five animals and mild coelomic effusion and petechiae affecting the tongue and kidneys of one animal. Microscopically, all animals had multifocal necrosis of the spleen, liver, and kidney; four of five animals had necrosis of the nasal cavity; and two of five had necrosis of adrenal tissue, bone marrow, and skin. Numerous basophilic intracytoplasmic inclusions were present in the liver of all animals and nasal mucosa of three of the five animals. Consensus polymerase chain reaction for herpesvirus and adenovirus were negative, whereas ranavirus quantitative polymerase chain reaction was positive. Virus isolation followed by whole genome sequencing and Bayesian phylogenetic analysis classified the isolates as a strain of frog virus 3 (FV3) most closely related to an FV3 isolate responsible for a previous outbreak in the zoo's eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) group. This case series documents the first known occurrence of ranavirus-associated disease in chameleons and demonstrates the potential for interspecies transmission between chelonian and squamate reptiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)696-705
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 23 2019


  • Frog virus 3
  • Interspecies transmission
  • Viral sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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