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Scientists discover new type of virus responsible for a devastating disease in snakes

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A novel virus has been identified as the possible cause of a common but mysterious disease that kills a significant number of pet snakes all over the world, thanks to research led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—and three snakes named Juliet, Balthazar and Larry.

The virus, previously not thought to infect snakes at all, appears to cause "inclusion body disease." Long the bane of zoo officials and exotic pet owners, the deadly illness spreads among boas and pythons in captivity, causing micro clumps of clustered proteins to form inside the snake, leading to bacterial infections, neurological problems, anorexia and withering, leading to death. The new work, described this week in the American Society for Microbiology's new open-access journal mBio, paves the way toward developing diagnostics and treatments, which may make it possible to eradicate the disease from snake collections worldwide.

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