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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Has anyone had experiences to share RE: either respiratory infections or directly for Nidovirus?

There has been a number of postings recently on Facebook groups relating to Morelia and controversy focussed directly towards a well known breeder based in Germany.

Picking through the information, I surmise it may be more prevalent than people are aware, even those who have tested for it.
It includes a range of viruses which may not yield positive results, depending on how the PCR test is applied, and prevalence of the virus at the time of swabbing.

I have screened half my boas for Arenavirus but not even considered screening my pythons for Nidovirus.

I have taken to keeping my pythons in my son’s bedroom and my boas in my study/landing but ultimately will need to expand into shared areas as the animals mature.

Really interested in keepers personal experiences with any incidences of RI or confirmed virus carriers.

Regards,

Andy
 

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It does seem to be the trendy thing to discuss now, to the point of seeming rather alarmist from certain quarters..

I PCR test all animals for it as they come in, along with faecal screens etc for parasites, crypto etc. as a necessary part of the quarantine process (it can affect Colubrids too although at a much lower rate than Pythons) and have never had a positive result, even accounting for false negatives. So I do not know how common it is over here. Would be interesting to see test results from the larger Royal python keepers/ breeders.

Ultimately the extent and magnitude of the supposed nidovirus pandemic, particularly its ubiquitous presence in the US collections, shows nothing less than the utter failure of the big breeders to correctly quarantine their animals and their willingness to look the other way and continue selling animals even when they know it is in the collection.

I will directly quote Chelsea Echternach: "If you get nido/ibd/crypto from someone and talk about how you and the seller handled it privately you can eat my entire a**. Letting someone continue to sell their symptomatic diseased animals to unsuspecting buyers makes you just as shi**y. Sorry not sorry."

These people need to be thrown under the bus.
 

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I watched a video some time ago where a breeder in the US provided results from a test for nido/ibd on all his hatchlings / neonates sold. The cost of each test was around $100 and was added to the price of the snake. Granted this made his baby snakes more expensive than other breeders, but it gave the new owner piece of mind that the snake was free from these viruses. It also gave him protection should the new owner have an outbreak as it proved his animals were clean and the infection wouldn't have come form him. Now I can understand that some people would not be concerned whatsoever about paying £100 onto of a £1000 snake, but I can't see it being accepted on a £50 low end royal.

I have one adult boa in my main room, with four royals in vivs around 10' away. Apart from one purchase two year ago, all the others are long term captives or hatchlings I've produced. Earlier this year the boa developed an RI, and had a course of antibiotics to cure it. The vet didn't suggest testing for IBD, but it was an option, but not something I could afford at the time.

Good hygiene practices are followed when cleaning etc. I wash my hands after cleaning / refilling each snakes water dish so to risk any contamination, just in case.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hey Francis,
Your health screening protocols sound sensible, especially with such a large group of animals. So, does that work out about £100 per animal per test?

I assume with many of these viruses, they could remain dormant and not manifest. Have you done any follow up or repeat screening for specific animals?

Have you even ever encountered any snakes suffering RI? Good setups & good husbandry will surely help to maintain healthy immune systems and reduce risks for RI manifesting?

For my rainbow boas, I only swabbed one animal from each breeder, not each animal (prohibitive costs). Next round I intend to submit composites from 3 animals for one test, which will reduce the overall costs. I will be doing so, in full awareness that a negative result does not prove absence of that pathogen in my collection 🤷🏻‍♂️

Whilst I sympathise with frustrations people express over receiving an unhealthy animal, I would not wish a bus or any terminal metaphor to be applied 😳
Intent and awareness are not always so black and white/ clear cut. It is our human nature to identify a scapegoat, but we are not always fair in how we attribute causes and consequences?

There seem to be some extreme ‘keyboard warriors’ who, whilst raising awareness, do so in a very blaming condemnating way. I fear this can be counter productive, send issues underground, so not helping the hobby longer term.

Far from being logical and rational, perhaps humans are more emotionally driven, so choosing the ‘correct’ moral or ethical decision in a given situation can very much be guided by personal circumstance and by example experiences. The more open some of us can be, the more awareness and free discussion will come out (although it does leave one open to more scrutiny, including by self-righteous warriors).

Lead by example, and treat others how we would wish to be treated, maybe are good mantras we should adopt.

I suspect many hobbyists are unfamiliar with health screening; both in terms of costs and interpreting significance and limitations of results. This is why I’d like greater discussion of this, and very pleased Liam Sinclair has shared research and made videos on such topics 👏👏👏👏👏

Infectious diseases like Nidovirus in the USA might be deemed more prevalent because they are doing more testing over there than we are here, not necessarily because they have been more slap dash with quarantining?

I would like to see greater uptake of screening in our hobby and to better understand best methods for identification, control, and where possible, treatment.

These are my current musings,

Andy
 

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So, does that work out about £100 per animal per test?
It would seem that they've come down in price £67.20 for a Nidrovirus test, and the same for IBD. See here

For Arenavirus PCR we required a Heparin blood sample (to be taken by an exotic vet) and an oesophageal plain swab and for Nidovirus PCR, we require a tracheal plain swab or a lavage and for Adenovirus PCR, we require a oral/cloacal plain swab.

Please note: as we are a laboratory and not a veterinary practice, we do not give advice regarding any treatments that may be available, as this is the responsibility of your exotic vet. Should interpretation be required, it will be stated on your report.
So whilst £68 gets you the test, you would have additional costs of a vet to take the bloods for IBD, and possibly some of the cloacal swabs...

It could be that these diseases are just as common in the UK as they are in the US or other countries, because as you say, there is less testing done in the UK. But given the fact that to test even a modest "collection" with less than 20 snakes will set you back over £1200 plus vet bills if you have Boa's, I can't see a lot of people getting their entire collections tested. The British have a trend to fix things when they brake rather than preventative actions.....
 

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Hey Francis,
Your health screening protocols sound sensible, especially with such a large group of animals. So, does that work out about £100 per animal per test?

I assume with many of these viruses, they could remain dormant and not manifest. Have you done any follow up or repeat screening for specific animals?
Andy,

Depending on what is tested it ranges from about £35 to over £100. I always perform full parasitology that includes crypto as tbh crypto seems more common in UK collections and more widespread across taxa. It does not need to be per animal, you can get groups of animals that live in the same viv or have travelled together tested at once (at least for crypto and to some extent parasitology. You'd treat the latter all the same anyway).

'The works' including nido comes to about £111 or so, which is often far more than I pay for any one animal but is worth it for peace of mind. For WC animals, full parasitology is more important. For animals that have been in large collections long term, nido and crypto are more worrisome.

I have occasionally done follow up screening for crypto although fortunately have yet to encounter it either. (False negatives are common for that as well). My quarantine protocols last from between three months to several years. I do not take on very many animals at all any more and have not done for the last few years - occasionally I rehome animals for friends but have not been 'on the market' for quite some time as my collection is already huge.


Have you even ever encountered any snakes suffering RI? Good setups & good husbandry will surely help to maintain healthy immune systems and reduce risks for RI manifesting?

For my rainbow boas, I only swabbed one animal from each breeder, not each animal (prohibitive costs). Next round I intend to submit composites from 3 animals for one test, which will reduce the overall costs. I will be doing so, in full awareness that a negative result does not prove absence of that pathogen in my collection 🤷🏻‍♂️
I have occasionally had snakes suffer from R.I.s in the past, both when taking on imported animals (which seem to get them because the stress of importation reduces their immune response) or once or twice when keeping animals in tubs. None of these were nido- or serpentoviruses (in fact most were experienced before those were really known). They were the simple, humble 'generic R.I' that could be treated with nebulisers and a slight rise in temperature. I am sure there is a lot more that could be said on that score though.

The question of environmental effect on R.I.s has been one I have long pondered. Since I moved everything into full length vivs equipped with UV and overhead heating between 2008-2012, I have not experienced a single case of R.I. in my own collection.

I have several hypotheses for why this might be. It could be tubs were too humid for some snakes and the ventilation of vivs helps reduce stagnant air. It could be that, as the old tomes of lore used to imply, being able to stretch out is important for an organism with one functional lung, and helps reduce the likelihood of an infection. It could be that reduced stress helps raise immune response. It could be overhead heating as opposed to heat mats enable the snakes to warm up more efficiently. And yes, despite certain rabid demagogues' incorrect attacks on Liam, it is probable that high serum D3 both from exposure to UV and vitamin supplementation mitigates the more harmful effects.

Delving into the 'hard stuff' - contrary to a lot of arguments you see from Facebook and Youtube comment sections, we know vitamin D does have a link to respiratory pathology, including the major histocompatibility complex class II molecules, vitamin D receptor, vitamin D-binding protein, chromosome P450, Toll-like receptors, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1, and the reduced form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. Vitamin D also exerts its effect on respiratory diseases through cell signaling mechanisms, including matrix metalloproteinases, mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways, the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, prostaglandins, reactive oxygen species, and nitric oxide synthase. In summary, vitamin D plays a significant role in respiratory diseases and modulates inflammatory cytokine expression.

This does not mean it is going to prevent respiratory diseases... but it sure as hell should mitigate their effects to some extent. Vitamin D also has direct impact on stress. Stress also determines susceptibility to infection. There are multiple pathways at play here. So there may or may not be a link between the fact I provide UV to everything and the fact I do not see respiratory infections in my collection, but along with the other benefits from UV, I will take anything it offers.

This of course is in conjunction with a rigorous quarantine and screening process, not separate from it.


Whilst I sympathise with frustrations people express over receiving an unhealthy animal, I would not wish a bus or any terminal metaphor to be applied 😳
Intent and awareness are not always so black and white/ clear cut. It is our human nature to identify a scapegoat, but we are not always fair in how we attribute causes and consequences?

There seem to be some extreme ‘keyboard warriors’ who, whilst raising awareness, do so in a very blaming condemnating way. I fear this can be counter productive, send issues underground, so not helping the hobby longer term.

Far from being logical and rational, perhaps humans are more emotionally driven, so choosing the ‘correct’ moral or ethical decision in a given situation can very much be guided by personal circumstance and by example experiences. The more open some of us can be, the more awareness and free discussion will come out (although it does leave one open to more scrutiny, including by self-righteous warriors).

Lead by example, and treat others how we would wish to be treated, maybe are good mantras we should adopt.

I suspect many hobbyists are unfamiliar with health screening; both in terms of costs and interpreting significance and limitations of results. This is why I’d like greater discussion of this, and very pleased Liam Sinclair has shared research and made videos on such topics 👏👏👏👏👏

Infectious diseases like Nidovirus in the USA might be deemed more prevalent because they are doing more testing over there than we are here, not necessarily because they have been more slap dash with quarantining?

I would like to see greater uptake of screening in our hobby and to better understand best methods for identification, control, and where possible, treatment.

These are my current musings,

Andy
It seems odd for a non-English person to explain to (I assume) an English person, 'throwing somebody under the bus' does not denote a form of murder or wish of violence upon that person... it's just a colloquialism for betraying that person and making their crimes public. Which I think any responsible buyer of an infected reptile should have the right to do. After all, we are free enough to leave bad reviews for shops, restaurants, hotels... why not for sellers of ill animals? Otherwise anybody else purchasing from such a seller is also likely to undergo the same heartache.

Intent and awareness may not always be clear cut, but you can bet the big python breeders are more than aware of this disease and how it would impact their business. I strongly believe that infectious diseases are more prevalent in the USA for this reason (big breeders being a more fundamental foundation of the hobby over there than they are here so even a few of these breeders having it in their collections would very rapidly spread - as they have. And given the way they have historically failed to manage or raise awareness, I think condemnation is more than warranted. We are not talking individual hobbyists that certainly may not know about these things. We are talking cover-ups and intentional downplaying by the movers and shakers.

I am not sure what I feel about a seller charging a buyer to be sure their animals are healthy. I feel that should be the seller's responsibility, why would the buyer pay extra for that peace of mind? It should come as a prerequisite, not a bonus. Still, it is at least a move in the right direction in respect to awareness.

I am of course also of the opinion that better education and discussion on this topic needs to be had. I've written quite a few long and detailed posts about it myself, including on here. But look at the nature of the hobby we are in. Liam shares videos on quarantine and later the possible effect on UV and he picks up his very own 'stalker with a crush' intent on misrepresenting his words. Somebody mentions the possible threats of bioactive (of which I and other members of AHH have written several articles on the possible issues) and the bioactive fanatics come out to decry you and say 'you just are not doing it right.' Point out the problems with shipping WC snakes from one state to another as SFD has been found and the shops and wholesalers over there make out there is no problem. Somebody mentions the threat of these new kinds of illnesses and the 'old school' keepers form up in a line to tell you how 'things were done in the eighties' and all the home remedies that used to work. You cannot win. It really is an uphill slog.

Regards,
Francis
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I was guessing that £100 might cover Nidovirus and parasite check in faecals/cryptosporidium that Francis referred to?

I used Laboklin, more like £46 per submission (for Arenavirus); price has not gone up since last year, despite Brexit, amazingly!

As more use the services, so economies of scale will reduce the costs. Something to encourage for the greater good?

I consulted a couple of vets, and although the bloods and 3 swab samples at differing times can improve detection, it does increase costs, is more invasive procedure, plus the animal needs to be a decent mass to obtain the bloods, so couldn’t be done on a tiny BRB neonate.

I was advised that just for screening, 1 swab could be suitable and sufficient.

I did use a local vet to take the swabs, who agreed £80 consultancy, I think on 7 boas, as I could process the samples myself. Vet would have charged a lot more for handling and certifying, but could have been even cheaper if I had swabbed them myself and pooled swabs into fewer submissions.

I think these health screening choices should be taken pragmatically, and risk based. i.e. which animals pose the greatest likelihood of potentially being infected, or liable for greatest consequences.

My aim is to screen in advance of potential breeding projects. BRBs can take 4-5 years to mature, so you can think of it as spreading the costs over a period. . .

So Malc, for your collection, why test the boa for Arenavirus, unless you were pairing it or rehoming it?

But maybe seriously consider testing your regius for Nidovirus if you are breeding them (£136? to test your pair). That’s not quite the same as a projected £1200 plus vet fees?
 

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I have no plans to breed the boa, he's just a pet, but I have paired the same royals on two seasons, and may possibly pair one of my holdbacks from 2019 in the 2022/32 season with a male purchased from a shop two year ago. Maybe it would be wise to get them tested....I would need to research the virus more, to see if it's like similar viruses in humans where one can be a carrier, but not have any symptoms, and to see what cure they may be... or what treatments would be needed should one or more test positive. Also how good the tests are. It's already been hinted at that there have been false positives and negatives... In the 35 years I've kept snakes, 31 of those years keeping Royals I've never had one with any RI symptoms. Baring a corn that was sold to me with pneumonia, which went straight back to the shop an hour after getting it home and in a quarantine tank, the only snake that's had an RI was the boa back in February this year. The prognosis was that it was due to him being run down through the breeding season, mainly as he fasted a bit too soon (something that I hope won't be repeated this year).

With regards to costs.. granted to test the pair that are proven breeders it's not that expensive. But should one test positive, or have a high probability if carrying the disease, then you're faced with the dilemma of having to test all the royals, especially as for the most, they are kept in stacked vivariums, who whilst not coming into direct contact, are in close proximity. So that then soon mounts up....
 

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May l just say thank you for posting this, very interesting discussion.

I'm having my first experience with mild RI in plains hognose right now, though this is only secondary to his main issue which is pretty severe, to the extend that l'm seriously considering having him PTS to prevent further suffering.

I have been hesitating whether to ask for advice here ( getting grilled on the forum is the last thing I need now ), and as the vet l've been seeing has now withdrawn the treatment, it would be more from the point of " has anyone encountered this before" than anything else.

Still, reading the above, I might give it a go and post the thread...
 

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What and interesting and educational thread. Thank you for starting it Swindinian.

What I would love to see, is more written literature on this type of thing in books. When I got my goats, I brought a book totally focused on their health and wellbeing. It also listed treatments, doses etc. The only downside was it was USA based, but thankfully much of the information was still very relevant, as were the drugs listed.

Now, on searching for books on snakes, I've not seen anything similar (happy for any pointers on this) and breed specific books are generally quite basic. I've also noticed that, yet again they're mainly from the USA. Obviously, there's a huge amount of different snake species, but I'd imagine medical treatment would be more generalised.

I do agree with Thrasops that the use of UV is important, as is the overall set up we keep our snakes in.
 

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What I would love to see, is more written literature on this type of thing in books. When I got my goats, I brought a book totally focused on their health and wellbeing. It also listed treatments, doses etc. The only downside was it was USA based, but thankfully much of the information was still very relevant, as were the drugs listed.

Now, on searching for books on snakes, I've not seen anything similar (happy for any pointers on this) and breed specific books are generally quite basic. I've also noticed that, yet again they're mainly from the USA. Obviously, there's a huge amount of different snake species, but I'd imagine medical treatment would be more generalised.
The single best book for the serious hobbyist on reptile illnesses is Mader's Reptile and Amphibian Medicine and Surgery, available here:


It is pricy but worth every penny.
 

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The single best book for the serious hobbyist on reptile illnesses is Mader's Reptile and Amphibian Medicine and Surgery, available here:


It is pricy but worth every penny.
Thanks, I'll have a good look. Might be able to get a secondhand one .
 

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I bought an Amazon Tree Boa from a pet shop and it was great, had it for around 9 months and it was amazing. It was quarantined for a month in another room - no signs of anything. I was always apprehensive about bringing another Boa into my collection as I have my boa constrictor who's simply the best and didn't want anything to happen to him. So everything looked okay until I moved.

I packed up all the snakes nice and safely, drove them 7 miles and settled the snakes into their enclosures. All well I thought..... the night of moving the snakes in I saw the ATB looking particularly weirdly into the air, which was unusual, never did it before. So I quickly moved her enclosure into a spare room to have my parents keep an eye on, as I was flying out to Chernobyl the next day of moving into my house. I got regular updates from my parents saying she was still looking into the air, how weird. I got back home 5 days later and I noticed that she was having muscular issues, the typical rolling head around, lost a tonne of weight, jittery movements. Took her to the local reptile vet where it subsequently passed away. Hit quickly, more quickly than I would have ever imagined. What surprised me is I never had any issues before the house move, I never got faecals done - perhaps I should have done.

None of my other snakes showed symptoms, however I did get them tested and they came back negative for Arenavirus - probably didn't need to do all of my snakes, but better safe than sorry!
 
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