Nidovirus is a type of reptile virus also (and more recently) known as ophidian serpentovirus. It’s fairly recent in the reptile world (it was first discovered in ball pythons in 2014), but relatives of this virus are known to be able to infect other types of animals. So far, ophidian serpentovirus is known to most commonly affect pythons, but it has been known to infect other boid species.
Nidovirus should be taken seriously. It can cause life-threatening upper respiratory and oral disease and can wipe out entire collections without proper precautions. In recent years, nidoviruses have become a main cause of fatal disease in pythons.
- reddened gums
- drooling (excess mucus in mouth)
- audible “clicks” or wheezing during breathing
- open-mouth breathing
- abnormal posture
- stomatitis (mouth rot)
Snakes which are infected nidovirus are not always symptomatic. These snakes are known as “carriers,” and while they may seem to be perfectly healthy, they are capable of infecting other snakes in your collection.
- direct or indirect exposure to an infected snake
If your ball python has tested positive for nidovirus, it will need to be quarantined from the rest of your collection immediately and for the rest of its life. Treatment options for nidovirus are currently limited, and it is likely that the snake will eventually need to be euthanized.
The best treatment for nidovirus in ball pythons is prevention. Regardless of whether you buy your ball python from a Morph Market breeder, your local classifieds, a pet store, or adopt it from a rescue, the snake must be quarantined for 12 months in case of nidovirus. This is especially important if you own other snakes and keep them all in one room. As part of standard quarantine protocol, during this period, take the ball python to an experienced reptile veterinarian to be tested for nidovirus and receive a general examination.
Another test is recommended toward the end of the quarantine period, which can be performed by your vet or a private lab such as:
- Research Associates Labratory (USA and worldwide)
- Laboklin (UK)
- Fishhead Diagnostics (worldwide)
References & Resources:
Blahak, S., Jenckel, M., Höper, D., Beer, M., Hoffmann, B., & Schlottau, K. (2020). Investigations into the presence of nidoviruses in pythons. Virology Journal, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12985-020-1279-5
Dervas, E., Hepojoki, J., Smura, T., Prahauser, B., Windbichler, K., Blumich, S., Ramis, A., Hetzel, U., & Kipar, A. (n.d.). Python nidoviruses, more than respiratory pathogens | bioRxiv. BioRxiv. Retrieved August 6, 2020, from https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.10.036640v1.full
Hoon-Hanks, L. (2017, December 19). Nidovirus FAQ, 2018. Stenglein Lab. https://www.stengleinlab.org/blog/2017/12/19/Nidovirus_FAQ.html
Hoon-Hanks, L. L., Layton, M. L., Ossiboff, R. J., Parker, J. S. L., Dubovi, E. J., & Stenglein, M. D. (2018). Respiratory disease in ball pythons (Python regius) experimentally infected with ball python nidovirus. Virology, 517, 77–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.virol.2017.12.008
Ossiboff, R. J., DVM, PhD, DACVP. (n.d.). Ophidian Serpentoviruses (Nidoviruses): What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and What We are Figuring Out [ExoticsCon 2019].