Reports of equine herpesvirus (EHV) 1 and EHV-9 causing clinical disease in a wide range of species have been well documented in the literature. It is thought that zebras are the natural hosts of EHV-9 both in the wild and in captive collections. Concerns about potential interspecies transmission of EHV-1 and EHV-9 in a mixed species savannah exhibit prompted serologic and polymerase chain reaction surveys. Eighteen Burchell's zebras (Equus quagga), 11 Hartmann's mountain zebras (Equus zebra hartmannae), and 14 Thomson's gazelles (Eudorcas thomsonii) cohabitating the same exhibit were examined for EHV-1 virus neutralization titers, and evidence of virus via EHV 1-5 polymerase chain reactions. None of the animals had previous exposure to vaccination with EHV-1 or EHV-4. All tested zebras had positive EHV-1 titers, ranging from 4 to 384. All zebras and Thomson's gazelles had negative polymerase chain reaction results for all targeted equine herpesviruses. EHV-9–specific assays are not available but EHV-1, EHV-4, and EHV-9 cross-react serologically. Positive serology results indicate a potential latent equine herpesvirus in the zebra population, which prompted initiation of an equine herpesvirus vaccine protocol, changes in pregnant zebra mare management, and equine herpesvirus polymerase chain reaction screening prior to shipment to or from the study site.
polymerase chain reaction
Thomson's gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii)