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Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus

Author(s): Paul D. Ling, Ph.D.

Types of Herpesviruses

Herpesviruses are ubiquitious in nature. Once an animal is infected, these viruses establish long-term chronic infections during the remaining lifespan of that animal.

Latency: Some EEHV virus particles hide in nervous system, others in immune cells in the blood.

Herpesviruses can cause a variety of diseases, including cancer. All herpesviruses are nuclear-replicating—the viral DNA is transcribed to mRNA within the infected cell's nucleus. Herpesviruses co-evolved with species.

What type of herpesvirus infect humans? There are at least eight herpesvirus types that infect humans. Recognizable diseases resulting from these infections include chicken pox, shingles, Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis) and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2.

Different strains of EEHV strike African elephants and Asians elephants. Most African elephants do not die, while specific strains of EEHV can kill juvenile Asian elephants.

Most normal healthy adult elephants have been infected. Young juveniles between ages of 2-7 are most susceptible.

We don’t yet know why some animals get sick and others don’t.

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Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

Development of The index Elephant teaching materials and video resources was supported in part by funds from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, grant numbers R25 AI084826 and R25 AI097453.