Investigation of a Novel Respiratory Coronavirus in Alpacas

Investigation of a Novel Respiratory Coronavirus in Alpacas; Diagnostic Test Development and Initial Prevalence assessment

Principal investigator:

Beate Crossley, DVM, PhD
University of California, Davis

In 2007 a nationwide respiratory disease of alpacas was described and rumors linked disease outbreaks to attendance at camelid shows and events. A coronavirus was isolated from lung tissue of an alpaca with outbreak-typical respiratory symptoms. Comparison between the respiratory virus and an enteric coronavirus described in Oregon revealed that two distinctly different viruses exist. To assess the spread of the respiratory coronavirus, a diagnostic assay was developed. The assay can be used to detect the virus in nasal secretions, lung tissue and potentially blood samples. Testing of archived samples showed that the respiratory coronavirus was widespread throughout the state of California during the outbreak affecting alpacas of all ages. Based on limited data the shedding window of the alpaca coronavirus in nasal secretion appears to be less than 5 days after onset of clinical symptoms. No virus was detected in samples taken between fall 2009 and summer 2010, however only a small number of samples were submitted for testing. Due to the small number of testing performed, no significant conclusion can be drawn upon the current existence and spread of the virus. Further monitoring of clinical samples is necessary.

Publication resulting from this work:

Crossley BM, Barr BC, Magdesian KG, Ing M, Mora D, Jensen D, Loretti AP, McConnell T, Mock R. Identification of a novel coronavirus possibly associated with acute respiratory syndrome in alpacas (Vicugna pacos) in California, 2007, J Vet Diagn Invest. 2010 Jan;22(1):94-7. Erratum in: J Vet Diagn Invest. 2010 Mar;22(2):335.