The huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) is an endangered cervid endemic to southern Argentina and Chile. Here we report foot lesions in 24 huemul from Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, Chile, between 2005 and 2010. Affected deer displayed variably severe clinical signs, including lameness and soft tissue swelling of the limbs proximal to the hoof or in the interdigital space, ulceration of the swollen tissues, and some developed severe proliferative tissue changes that caused various types of abnormal wear, entrapment, and/or displacement of the hooves and/or dewclaws. Animals showed signs of intense pain and reduced mobility followed by loss of body condition and recumbency, which often preceded death. The disease affected both genders and all age categories. Morbidity and mortality reached 80% and 40%, respectively. Diagnostics were restricted to a limited number of cases from which samples were available. Histology revealed severe papillomatous epidermal hyperplasia and superficial dermatitis. Electron microscopy identified viral particles consistent with viruses in the Chordopoxvirinae subfamily. The presence of parapoxvirus DNA was confirmed by a pan-poxvirus PCR assay, showing high identity (98%) with bovine papular stomatitis virus and pseudocowpoxvirus. This is the first report of foot disease in huemul deer in Chile, putatively attributed to poxvirus. Given the high morbidity and mortality observed, this virus might pose a considerable conservation threat to huemul deer in Chilean Patagonia. Moreover, this report highlights a need for improved monitoring of huemul populations and synergistic, rapid response efforts to adequately address disease events that threaten the species.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project would not have been possible without the generous support provided by CONAF, Michel Durand, Weeden Foundation, Agnes Gundt, Wuppertal Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society. We thank Rina Charlín, Juan Sotomayor, Aliro Vargas, Jorge Pérez, Germán Coronado, Guillermo Igor, Víctor Muñoz, Manuel Barrientos, Héctor Galaz, Fiorella Repetto, Daniela Dro-guett, and Cristian Saucedo for their assistance during fieldwork; and Nicole Püschel for organizing references. We greatly appreciate the collaboration of Jacqueline Ferracone, Crystal Jaing, Sushan Han, Kristin Mansfield, Tom Slezak, Jennifer Wilson-Welder, Cristina Brevis, and Daniel González Acuña with diagnostics. We also thank Dean Muldoon at the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for the electron microscopy preparation.
© 2019 Vila et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.