Canine distemper (CD) may pose a serious threat to Alpine wild carnivores and affect their population dynamics. Since 2006, the strain Europe Wildlife 2006–09, a distinct CD virus subgroup within viral lineage Europe 1 (EU1) characterized by increased virulence and host range expansion, has been linked to multiple CD outbreaks in Alpine wild carnivores. The aim of this study was to fill knowledge gaps about ongoing Alpine outbreaks of CD. To do this, we report on the circulation of canine distemper virus (CDV) and outbreaks of CD in Alpine wild carnivores in northwest Italy. A specific diagnostic protocol applied to a sample of 548 wild carnivores collected between January 2013 and December 2015 revealed the circulation of CDV belonging to the EU1 lineage. All isolates were carriers of amino-acid mutations defining the cluster Europe Wildlife 2006–09. A self-maintained multihost pathogen system may have developed in northwest Italy in which interspecies transmission from red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) to other noncanid species enhanced pathogen maintenance in the system.
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Vol. 55 • No. 4