New canine distemper strain found

US scientists have isolated the virus in wild animals in two neighbouring states, but the distinct subgroup of canine distemper virus has not yet been reported in a domesticated dog.

A new strain of canine distemper virus (CDV) has been identified by pathologists in the US.

Scientists at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire said the virus has been identified in eight wild animals comprising three fishers (a small carnivorous mammal native to North America), two grey foxes, one skunk, one raccoon and one mink in two contiguous states – New Hampshire and Vermont – in northern New England.

Distinct subgroup

No virus in this distinct subgroup of CDV has yet been reported in a domesticated dog.

All eight infected animals had lesions on autopsy consistent with CDV infections.

Viral genotyping indicated all eight animals were infected with a distinct clade of CDV that has only been reported in wildlife in New England, and this clade of viruses is distinct from vaccine strains.

Highly contagious

The findings have been published in a new study in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation.

Lead author David Needle, a senior veterinary pathologist at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said: “This strain is significantly distinct from the vaccine strains.

“A member of genus Morbillivirus that includes measles and CDV is highly contagious, and causes severe disease in infected animals.”