Ophidiomycosis surveillance of snakes in Georgia, USA reveals new host species and taxonomic associations with disease

Ellen Haynes, Houston C. Chandler, Benjamin S. Stegenga, Laura Adamovicz, Emilie Ospina, Dessireé Zerpa-Catanho, Dirk J. Stevenson, Matthew C. Allender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Ophidiomycosis (snake fungal disease) is caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola and threatens snake health worldwide. It has been documented throughout the eastern United States and severe cases have recently been reported in Georgia, USA. To evaluate disease distribution and prevalence in this state, 786 free-ranging snakes were examined for skin lesions consistent with ophidiomycosis and swabbed to detect O. ophiodiicola DNA using qPCR. Sampled snakes represented 34 species and 4 families; 27.5% had skin lesions, 13.3% were positive for O. ophiodiicola DNA, and 77.8% of the qPCR positive individuals had skin lesions. This is the first report of O. ophiodiicola in five of the 22 species that were qPCR positive. Multinomial logistic regression modeling indicated that Drymarchon couperi had a higher relative risk of apparent ophidiomycosis (lesions present and qPCR positive), and the best models predicting qPCR result and ophidiomycosis category included individual factors and excluded temporal and spatial factors. Phylogeny-based bipartite network analysis showed that Nerodia erythrogaster, Nerodia taxispilota, and D. couperi had the highest prevalence of apparent ophidiomycosis; this category was more prevalent in the subfamily Colubrinae and less prevalent in Natricinae. These results provide important information about ophidiomycosis epidemiology, which has implications for snake conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10870
JournalScientific reports
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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