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Mammals (other)
Use of immunostimulants in the successful treatment of a clinical EEHV1A infection in an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
  1. Gabby J Drake1,
  2. Jonathan Haycock2,3,
  3. Akbar Dastjerdi2,
  4. Hannah Davies2,3 and
  5. F Javier Lopez1
  1. 1Veterinary Department, Chester Zoo, Chester, Cheshire West and Chester, UK
  2. 2MVIU Virology, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Addlestone, Surrey, UK
  3. 3School of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK
  1. Correspondence to Gabby J Drake; g.drake{at}


Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus haemorrhagic disease (EEHV-HD) poses a significant threat to the captive population of juvenile Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) and also affects elephants in the wild. In human and veterinary medicine, increasing attention is returning to the interferon system, a crucial mediator in the immune response for control of infection. We describe the first reported use of the Zelnate DNA immunostimulant and recombinant human interferon alpha (rhIFNα) as additional medications in the successful treatment of a case of EEHV1A-HD in a juvenile Asian elephant at a UK zoo. Despite an exponential rise in viraemia to a peak of 2.82×106 viral genomic equivalents/ml, only mild clinical signs developed and the calf survived with no adverse effects attributed to the novel treatments. This case is compared with a previous fatal case within the same herd where Zelnate and rhIFNα were not given.

  • herpesviruses
  • elephants
  • immunology
  • treatment
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  • Contributors GJD and FJL managed the clinical cases described. GJD and JH primarily drafted the manuscript and all other authors contributed. Authors AD, HD and JH either performed or assisted colleagues not in the authorship with the completion of molecular techniques, including PCR and gene sequencing described in this report.

  • Funding This project was funded by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as well as Chester Zoo and other UK and European zoos through the EAZA Elephant TAG.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon request.

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