Three Snakes That Shook the World

14 Aug 2012 08:33 17
UC San Francisco (U Download
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A novel virus of a type that was thought never to infect snakes at all has been identified as the possible cause of the common but mysterious "inclusion body disease", which kills a significant number of pet snakes all over the world, thanks to research led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—and three snakes named Juliet, Balthazar and Larry.

UCSF's Joe DeRisi described this work, which paves the way toward developing diagnostics and treatments and may make it possible to eradicate the disease from snake collections worldwide. Long the bane of zoo masters and exotic pet owners, the deadly and devastating disease spreads among boas and pythons in captivity, causing micro clumps of clustered proteins to form inside the snake, leading to bacterial infections, neurological problems, anorexia and withering, leading to death.

Joe DeRisi, PhD, is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator (HHMI) and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF.

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