Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) can cause lethal hemorrhagic disease in juvenile Asian elephants, both in captivity and in the wild. Most deaths associated with the virus are caused by two chimeric variants of EEHV1 (EEHV1A and EEHV1B), while two other EEHVs endemic within Asian elephants (EEHV4 and EEHV5) have been recognized but cause death less often. Whether lethal EEHV infections are due to primary infection or reactivation of latent virus remains unknown, and knowledge of the anti-EEHV antibody levels in young elephants is limited. To close these gaps, we sought to develop a serologic assay capable of distinguishing among infections with different EEHVs using a luciferase immunoprecipitation system (LIPS) for antibody profiling and a panel of conserved EEHV recombinant proteins and proteins unique to EEHV1. The results showed that elephants dying from EEHV1 hemorrhagic disease or ill from EEHV infection were seronegative for the EEHV species that caused the disease or illness, indicating that the events were associated with primary infection rather than reactivation of latent virus. We also demonstrated that waning of EEHV1-specific antibodies can occur in the first 2 years of life, when a threshold protective level of antibody may be needed to prevent severe EEHV1-related disease. Use of the LIPS assay to identify putative "diagnostic" proteins would be a valuable asset in determining the EEHV immune status of young elephants and responses to candidate EEHV vaccines in the future. IMPORTANCE Whether clinical illness and deaths associated with elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) infection result from primary infection or reactivation of latent virus is a longstanding question in the field. By applying a relatively new assay, the luciferase immunoprecipitation system (LIPS), combined with the genomic sequences of the viruses, we gained the insights and tools needed to resolve this issue. Our EEHV1- specific LIPS assay should be useful for assessing the vulnerability of elephant calves to infection with different EEHVs and evaluating antibody responses to anti-EEHV vaccines. A significant proportion of the Asian elephant population is under some form of human care. Hence, the ability to screen for EEHV immune status in elephant calves should have a major impact on the management of these animals worldwide.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science