Ebola, IBD, Boas & Herpetoculture: The Ugly Truth 4

Boa Constrictor Close upI am not one for conspiracy theories. I really don’t know personally if the Kennedy assassination was a Lee Harvey Oswald or if there were multiple shooters. I wasn’t even thought of President Kennedy lost his life that day. Today there are thousands of conspiracy theories in circulation from Area 51 and Alien abduction to Bigfoot and global warming. I have my own personal opinions on all of these but that has nothing to do with herpetoculture.

Yesterday and today there has been a rash of articles from science bloggers covering a disease that has been impacting herpetoculture for over twenty years now. Inclusion Body Disease more commonly referred to as IBD in the reptile community is primarily found in Boidae family of snakes which includes boas, pythons, and anacondas. So far IBD has only been seen in Burmese Python, Indian Python, Reticulated Python, ball python, and boa constrictors. So why the sudden interest to the science community regarding a disease that has been around for over twenty years?

Well truth is this. On August 14th a paper titled “Identification, Characterization, and In Vitro Culture of Highly Divergent Arenaviruses from Boa Constrictors and Annulated Tree Boas: Candidate Etiological Agents for Snake Inclusion Body Disease” Published by the American Society for Microbiology. Many “journalists” have snapped this up as seemingly another way to increase the fear of snakes and zoonosis using the papers statement of IBD being related to Arenaviruses which appear to be a combination of multiple viruses; when seen in humans can cause Lassa fever and Ebola. So is this another scare tactic that will be used against herpetoculture? It would certainly seem so as one ‘journalist’ wrote “So far the disease seems to be restricted to captive snakes but some scientists are worried that the release of captive bred or rehabilitated snakes might unwittingly unleash this devastating virus into the wild.

Just so we are clear, the connection is one which the scientist himself stated was not one that is zoonotic. What are your thoughts on this new set of articles taking the internet by storm? Let us know in the Herptofauna Forums. Exclusive Update: We’ve just interviewed the scientists that wrote the original paper and the interview is now in The Reptile Living Room.

Direct from email sent to me by Dr. DeRisi.
From our pathologist in Sacramento:

“…I have 1850 snakes in the database since 1997 (earlier are not computerized). 834 are boids (boas and pythons), so 45%. Of these I have 193 positive IBD cases (23%), 147 are boas and 46 are pythons…”

4 thoughts on “Ebola, IBD, Boas & Herpetoculture: The Ugly Truth

  • Patti

    So, what horrible fate awaits us now, and what simple, intelligent process can we follow to protect ourselves? Is this one as simple as proper hygiene as well?

  • Jo

    Media manipulation springs to mind to manipulate the public in to a false sense of insecurity ? I certainly see and understand why you created this blog John even if its not apparent to others.The media has a very strong pull on the public as a whole and with such headlines as “Mad snake disease” it certainly brings fear into shall we say the less educated in reptiles it can be seen as scare mongering yet another attack on the reptile industry maybe?…the words EBOLA will certainly rattle some cages!

  • John F Taylor Post author

    Cheryl, while I appreciate your candor as it were. However, I do believe you misread what was said, “IBD in the reptile community is primarily found in Boidae family of snakes which includes boas, pythons, and anacondas.” This means that Anacondas are in the Boidae family which is what I stated so I am not certain of your point of stating ‘Anaconda’s are boas’ as that is what I said. For reference this information can be found here As far as your personal work with Vets I am happy for you, but the fact remains that there have been documented cases of IBD since 1970 as can be evidenced by the hundreds of reports from veterinarians such as Dr. Douglas Mader as well as Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine article in 1994 titled Inclusion Body Disease in Boid snakes. Again here is another link as well as So saying this is undiagnosable I think more research is needed on your behalf when I can reference so many articles from qualified veterinarians that dispute your claim. Now then my point of bringing this topic up in the first place was to bring it to the attention of the community at large that once again ‘scare tactics’ are in use and could be used against the community.

  • Cheryl Bott

    Your blog would have carried more weight if you didn’t try and make a ‘thought’ connection between Kennedy and area 51! Come on!

    Anaconda’s are boas, and there has been very little diagnoses of IBD in reptiles, any reptiles! So I get your connection between Area 51 and IBD! 15 years ago I worked very closely with a group of Vet’s at Gainesville and a group of imported reptiles that were thought to have IBD. After 3 euthanasia’s and fresh necropsy no diagnoses could be made. Point is, it is (IBD) almost impossible to diagnose!

    Ebola and reptile zoonotic disease…well that’s a stretch for sure!

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