U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


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Berentsen, A.R., M.R. Dunbar, M.S. Becker, J.M'soka, E.Droge, N.M. Sakuya, W. Matandiko, R. McRobb, and C.A. Hanlon. 2013. Rabies, Canine Distemper, and Canine Parvovirus exposure in large carnivore communities from two Zambian ecosystems. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 13(9):643-649. doi 10.1089/vbz.2012.1233.


U.S. government work.


Disease transmission within and among wild and domestic carnivores can have significant impacts on populations, particularly for threatened and endangered species. We used serology to evaluate potential exposure to rabies virus, canine distemper virus (CDV), and canine parvovirus (CPV) for populations of African lions (Panthera leo), African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), and spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park (SLNP) and Liuwa Plain National Park (LPNP) as well as community lands bordering these areas. In addition, domestic dogs in the study region were evaluated for exposure to CDV and rabies. We provide the first comprehensive disease exposure data for these species in these ecosystems. Twenty-one lions, 20 hyenas, 13 wild dogs, and 38 domestic dogs were sampled across both regions from 2009 to 2011. Laboratory results show 10.5% of domestic dogs, 5.0% of hyenas, and 7.7% of wild dogs sampled were positive for CDV exposure. All lions were negative. Exposure to CPV was 10.0% and 4.8% for hyenas and lions, respectively. All wild dogs were negative, and domestic dogs were not tested due to insufficient serum samples. All species sampled were negative for rabies virus neutralizing antibodies except lions. Forty percent of lions tested positive for rabies virus neutralizing antibodies. Because these lions appeared clinically healthy, this finding is consistent with seroconversion following exposure to rabies antigen. To our knowledge, this finding represents the first ever documentation of rabies virus neutralizing antibodies consistent with rabies exposure that did not lead to clinical disease in free-ranging African lions from this region. With ever-increasing human pressure on these ecosystems, understanding disease transmission dynamics is essential for proper management and conservation of these carnivore species.

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