Ball Python Nidovirus: a Candidate Etiologic Agent for Severe Respiratory Disease in Python regius

Ball pythons are popular pets because of their diverse coloration, generally nonaggressive behavior, and relatively small size. Since the 1990s, veterinarians have been aware of an infectious respiratory disease of unknown cause in ball pythons that can be fatal. We used unbiased shotgun sequencing to discover a novel virus in the order Nidovirales that was present in cases but not controls. While nidoviruses are known to infect a variety of animals, this is the first report of a nidovirus recovered from any reptile. This report will enable diagnostics that will assist in determining the role of this virus in the causation of disease, which would allow control of the disease in zoos and private collections. Given its evolutionary divergence from known nidoviruses and its unique host, the study of reptile nidoviruses may further our understanding of related diseases and the viruses that cause them in humans and other animals.
Photo credit: Christina Wozniak.

[ Read the full open-access article at the mBio website ]


Actionable Diagnosis of Neuroleptospirosis by Next-Generation Sequencing

A 14-year-old boy with severe combined immunodeficiency presented 3 times to a medical facility over 4 months with fever and headache that progressed to hydrocephalus and status epilepticus necessitating a medically-induced coma after starting empiric steroids for a suspected autoimmune condition. An exhaustive diagnostic workup including brain biopsy was unrevealing. In collaboration with Dr. Charles Chiuís lab (UCSF Department of Laboratory Medicine), unbiased next-generation sequencing of the patientís cerebrospinal fluid and computational analysis of the results using an ultra-rapid bioinformatics pipeline for comprehensive pathogen detection identified 475 sequence reads out of 3,063,784 (0.016%) corresponding to Leptospira spp. This result was obtained within 48 hours of sample receipt. The patient responded dramatically when treated with appropriate antimicrobials and discontinuation of steroids, and was discharged home 24 days later near his premorbid baseline.

[ Read the Article in the New York Times ] ē [ Press Release ]


Oct 29th, 2013. UCSF, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, MIT, and Davidson College receive $400,000 from Dr. David Botstein to further advanced technology courses for graduate education. Dr. Botstein is the recent recipient of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Science, and has pledged a portion of that prize to these four institutions in recognition of their efforts to further advanced teaching, especially at the graduate school level. At UCSF, the award recognizes the recently built Teaching Lab at Mission Bay together with the Integrated Program in Complex Biological Systems, an NIBIB T32 supported program that promotes a project-based curriculum for students in biophysics and bioinformatics. The Teaching Lab was opened in 2011 and was funded by QB3.
Read the CSHL Press Release here