Matojo, the nine-month-old Iberian lynx cub found dead in 2015 in Extremadura, did not die from natural causes. His necropsy shows that it was the pseudorabies virus that triggered his sudden demise. Before this case, contagion of this infectious disease was only known in one wild cat in the world, a Florida panther.
On 1 December 2015, Matojo, a male Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) cub, was found dead in an expanse of pastures and low scrubland. He was a descendent of Kakapo and Kun and belonged to one of the first litters born free in Extremadura after the Iberian lynx was reintroduced into the region through the Life+Iberlince project (www.iberlince.eu/index.php/esp/).
Initially, the facts indicated that his death might have been the result of natural causes. However, a study that has recently come out in the journal 'BMC Veterinary Research' (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5217549/), led by the University of Extremadura and the Local Government of Extremadura's Environmental Department, sheds light on the reasons behind his death: the pseudorabies virus (PRV) killed him.
As Javier Masot, a researcher at the university and main author of the study, tells SINC (http://www.agenciasinc.es/en/News/The-first-Iberian-lynx-infected-by-the-pseudorabies-virus): "This is the first case described of an Iberian lynx being infected by PRV, or Aujeszky's disease, and the second in any wild cat. Only one other case has been described in 1994 in a Florida panther. After the analyses carried out, it was determined that this was a wild strain."
The study is the first ever evidence that PRV can have a negative impact on the survival of wild Iberian lynxes under threat of extinction.
The animal appeared in an area called Hornachos-Valle del Matachel in the southwest of Badajoz. It was a male born free to a healthy three-year-old female. Using camera-trap photos, it is estimated that Matojo's date of birth was between the 8th and 12th of March 2015. He died at nine months of age.
"In carnivores, and cats in particular, the virus incubation period is short, between two and four days. The infection causes acute encephalitis and the result is invariably fatal, leading to death between 12 and 48 hours after the clinical signs appear," explains Masot.
It is likely that the infection originates in a wild boar, which is a natural reservoir of the virus and transmits the infection to wild carnivore species. "Indices of seropositivity of 69.70 percent and lung infections with PRV of 11.30 percent have recently been described in wild boar populations of southwest Spain using the test called ELISA," the scientist continues.
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