Postnatal mortality in neonate rattlesnakes associated with ophidiomyces ophiodiicola

Megan Britton, Matthew C. Allender, Shih Hsuan Hsiao, Sarah J. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ophidiomycosis, historically referred to as snake fungal disease (SFD), caused by Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, is a significant disease of snakes characterized by crusty scales, pustules, subcutaneous nodules, and death. Ophidiomycosis is a proposed threat to sustainability of free-ranging snake populations throughout the United States and Europe, but the clinical progression during periods of reproductive activity (gravid females, neonates) is unknown. In spring 2012, five apparently healthy gravid eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) rattlesnakes from Clinton County, Illinois, were brought into captivity to give birth and be returned into the population. While in captivity, one adult female and 21 neonates died. Five individuals were subsequently confirmed positive for O. ophiodiicola by using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). In 2016, a gravid timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) with ophidiomycosis from Jackson County, Illinois, gave birth in captivity to 13 neonates. Skin swabs were taken from all neonates immediately after birth and confirmed negative for O. ophiodiicola by using qPCR. The neonates remained housed with the positive female for 10 days before all animals were reswabbed and released back into the wild. One neonate was O. ophiodiicola positive at time of release. The initial negative result followed by a positive result several days postpartum suggests that the neonate was infected by the female after direct contact. Both case series represent natural infection of neonates after parturition and highlight the importance of this disease in a demographically important age class.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)672-677
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 23 2019


  • Crotalus horridus
  • Eastern massasauga
  • Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola
  • Quantitative polymerase chain reaction
  • Sistrurus catenatus
  • Timber rattlesnake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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