Is the hepatitis virus absent from Yellow-Bellied Marmots?
Hepatitis virus has been found in some populations of Woodchucks (Marmota monax), but not in others, of eastern United States. This patchy distribution raised the question of whether the virus occurs in other species of North American marmots. Therefore, blood samples from 51 yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) from the Upper East River Valley, Colorado, USA, were tested for the presence of the woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV). The marmot sera were tested for woodchuck hepatitis surface antigen, antibody to woodchuck hepatitis virus core antigen, and virus-specific DNA polymerase at the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the Department of Health and Human Services in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. These tests would have detected a virus identical with or serologically related to WHV and would have detected a serologically distinct member of the hepadna viruses. All tests were negative for all 51 yellow-bellied marmots. These results indicate that yellow-bellied marmots do not harbor a detectable hepadna virus. However, the patchy distribution of this virus in woodchuck populations indicates that additional populations of yellow-bellied marmots and other species of North American marmots should be tested in order to further understand the distribution of animal hepadna viruses.
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