Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus
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.
Keywords: EEHV | EEHV structure | elephant herpesvirus | endotheliotropic herpesvirus | Asian elephant | lipid bilayer | nucleocapsid | tegument | glycoprotein spikes
- Paul D. Ling, Ph.D., Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine.
- Herpesvirus capsid structure courtesy of Z. Hong Zhou, Ph.D. Used with permission.
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How can something we cannot see harm us? How can we protect ourselves from getting a disease? Activities in the Invisible Threats guide will help you and your students learn about and understand infectious diseases—how they are contracted and prevented. (8 activities)
Paul D. Ling, Ph.D., a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine, is a leading global expert on Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV), a disease that is killing baby Asian elephants. Join him as he discusses the virus, key discoveries, and a treatment protocol developed by his research team which keeps the elephants alive.
In this storybook, young students track a mysterious illness that is killing baby elephants. They learn how doctors and scientists identified the pathogen, found a treatment and are working to make a vaccine.
Funded by the following grant(s)
Development of the Science of Infectious Diseases 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 R25AI084826 and 4R25AI097453.