Research Highlights: Lethal virus isolated from Sonoran tiger salamanders

By Glenn Bartolotti – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Lethal virus isolated from Sonoran tiger salamanders

  • The Sonoran tiger salamander is a genetically distinct type of salamander confined to about 30 small ponds in a valley in southern Arizona, United States.
  • The Sonora tiger salamander is among the animals on the USA Federal List of Endangered Species.
  • These salamanders occasionally experience a disease outbreak that can wipe out a large portion of their population.
  • Researchers isolated a virus from these salamanders using fish cell cultures.
  • Researchers utilized an electron microscope and found that thin sections from the salamanders had a large quantity of enveloped and non-enveloped icosahedral virus particles.
  • The viral particles were about 170 nanometers in diameter and were found to be in the cytoplasm of skin and liver cells.
  • Researchers speculated that the virus was an iridovirus by analyzing the morphology and host pathology.
  • Iridovirus is a nuclear, cytoplasmic, large DNA-containing virus that can infect either an invertebrate like insects or cold-blooded vertebrates like reptiles and amphibians.[1]
  • Researchers concluded that the virus was the primary pathogen in these outbreaks.
  • Researchers named the virus Arabystoma tigrinum virus or ATV.
  • Although bacteria that can rupture red blood cells were isolated from sick salamanders, researchers failed to trigger the disease by exposing salamanders to these bacteria.


Jancovich, J.K. et al. (1997). Isolation of a lethal virus from the endangered tiger salamander Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms.

[1] V.G. Chinchar, A.D. Hyatt (2008). Encyclopedia of Virology (Third Edition)

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