Serpentovirus (Nidovirus) and Orthoreovirus Coinfection in Captive Veiled Chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) with Respiratory Disease

Hoon-Hanks LL, Stöhr AC, Anderson AJ, Evans DE, Nevarez JG, Díaz RE, Rodgers CP, Cross ST, Steiner HR, Parker RR, Stenglein MD. 2020. Viruses


Serpentoviruses are an emerging group of nidoviruses known to cause respiratory disease in snakes and have been associated with disease in other non-avian reptile species (lizards and turtles). This study describes multiple episodes of respiratory disease-associated mortalities in a collection of juvenile veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus). Histopathologic lesions included rhinitis and interstitial pneumonia with epithelial proliferation and abundant mucus. Metagenomic sequencing detected coinfection with two novel serpentoviruses and a novel orthoreovirus. Veiled chameleon serpentoviruses are most closely related to serpentoviruses identified in snakes, lizards, and turtles (approximately 40-50% nucleotide and amino acid identity of ORF1b). Veiled chameleon orthoreovirus is most closely related to reptilian orthoreoviruses identified in snakes (approximately 80-90% nucleotide and amino acid identity of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase). A high prevalence of serpentovirus infection (>80%) was found in clinically healthy subadult and adult veiled chameleons, suggesting the potential for chronic subclinical carriers. Juvenile veiled chameleons typically exhibited a more rapid progression compared to subadults and adults, indicating a possible age association with morbidity and mortality. This is the first description of a serpentovirus infection in any chameleon species. A causal relationship between serpentovirus infection and respiratory disease in chameleons is suspected. The significance of orthoreovirus coinfection remains unknown.