Evidence of high EEHV antibody seroprevalence and spatial variation among captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Thailand

22 Aug 2019

BACKGROUND : Elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses (EEHV) can cause an acute highly fatal hemorrhagic disease in young Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), both ex situ and in situ. Amongst eight EEHV types described so far, type 1 (subtype 1A and 1B) is the predominant disease-associated type. Little is known about routes of infection and pathogenesis of EEHV, and knowledge of disease prevalence, especially in range countries, is limited. METHODS : A large cross-sectional serological survey was conducted in captive elephants (n = 994) throughout Thailand using an EEHV-1A glycoprotein B protein antigen specific antibody ELISA. RESULTS : Antibody seroprevalence was 42.3%, with 420 of 994 elephants testing positive. Associations between seropositivity and potential risk factors for EEHV infection were assessed and included: elephant age, sex, camp cluster size, management type (extensive versus intensive), sampling period (wet vs. dry season) and location of camp (region). Univariable regression analysis identified management system and region as risk factors for the presence of EEHV antibodies in elephants, with region being significant in the final multivariable regression model. Prevalence was highest in the North region of the country (49.4%). CONCLUSIONS : This study produced baseline serological data for captive elephants throughout Thailand, and showed a significant EEHV burden likely to be maintained in the captive population.