Viruses of the other mammals: genomics and epidemiology of marsupial herpesviruses
AuthorVaz, Paola Karinna
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2020-12-18.
© 2018 Dr. Paola Karinna Vaz
Improving wildlife population health requires an understanding of the infectious agents within those populations. Historical accounts of herpesviruses in marsupials indicate that they can have a significant impact on animal health. This evidence is strongest for the macropodid alphaherpesviruses, but with improvements in molecular diagnostics the discovery of novel viruses has outpaced our understanding of their impact and significance. This thesis aimed to expand our knowledge of marsupial herpesviruses by examining relationships between marsupial herpesviruses and other herpesviruses, and by describing the clinical significance of infection. This thesis also aimed to improve diagnostic tools for detecting herpesvirus infection in marsupials. The core genomes of three marsupial herpesviruses were determined; macropodid alphaherpesvirus 1 (MaHV1, infecting wallabies), phascolarctid gammaherpesvirus 1 (PhaHV1, infecting koalas) and vombatid gammaherpesvirus 1 (VoHV1, infecting wombats). MaHV1 had a similar genome arrangement to other simplexviruses, but contained gene clusters that may be unique to the macropodid simplexviruses. PhaHV1 and VoHV1 had a shared gene arrangement and were likely to have speciated from a common ancestor. Over 30 new ORFs were identified within the genomes. Functional enzymatic characterisation was performed on two viral NTPDase homologs encoded within the two gammaherpesviruses. NTPDase activity was confirmed for the PhaHV1 homolog but not the VoHV1 homolog. Koalas are host to two divergent gammaherpesvirus species, PhaHV1 and -2. To understand the clinical significance of each individual virus a large molecular epidemiological study of 810 koalas from 7 separate geographic regions was conducted. Samples were tested using a rapid and differential PCR-HRM assay. Available signalment and clinical observation data was analysed in comparison to infection status through univariable and multivariable logistic regression analysis. Additional factors considered were location, year, body condition, fecundity in females, as well as the presence of other infectious agents (Chlamydia pecorum and koala retrovirus). PhaHV1 and -2 were present in 17% and 22% of koalas tested (state-wide), although some variation from the state average was observed in particular populations. Neither virus was associated with a particular sex. PhaHV1 detection was uniquely associated with the presence of koala retrovirus as well as increasing age. PhaHV2 detection did not change with age, which may indicate differences in how these two viruses are acquired over the life of the animal. Both viruses were positively associated with genital tract abnormalities, lowered fertility in females, emaciated body condition, urinary tract infection (wet bottom) and detection of C. pecorum, although the strength of these associations varied by sex and herpesvirus species. To further the development of herpesviruses serological tools, this thesis examined the ability of four commercially-available immunoglobulin-binding reagents to bind serum antibodies from 17 species within the Marsupialia and Monotremata. Serum samples were assessed for binding using immunoblots and ELISAs to three microbially-derived proteins; staphylococcal protein A, streptococcal protein G and peptostreptococcal protein L, and to an anti-kangaroo antibody. The inter- and intra-familial binding patterns of the reagents to serum immunoglobulins varied and evolutionary distance between animal species was not an accurate predictor of the ability of reagents to bind immunoglobulins.
Keywordsherpesvirus; marsupial; koala; macropod; genome; evolution; wildlife; NTPDase; antibody; diagnostics
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