Inclusion Body Disease – IBD

Hello William,

I have many questions regarding these beautiful reptiles and the fatal disease called IBD. I have 2 red tail boas. I recently lost my male to IBD. I’ve had him for a little over a year. I thought he had a respiratory infection. Took him to the vet. I was instructed to soak him in an inch of water due to dehydration. Little to say my boa drowned. We took him back to the vet where an autopsy was conducted. He had pneumonia and inclusions in the samples that were taken. One of my questions is can the respiratory infection cause inclusions in the samples that were taken? I have a female boa and a carpet python. What can I do to check if they have the disease? I understand that your are not a vet. However you are a breeder therefore more experienced the myself and I would greatly appreciate any advice and feed back you may have. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Lisa”


I am greatly sorry for the loss of your snake. IBD is a terrible disease that effects and eventually kills boas and pythons. However some people speculate that other snakes may be able to host the virus.

Images by Peter Khal

First off let me explain a little about Inclusion Body Disease. It is believed IBD is a viral disease, the pathogen appears to be a retrovirus (as it is the case with AIDS). It produces inclusion bodies that are found in the epithelial cells of the respiratory and digestive tracts, as well as in the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, ovaries, testicles, marrow and nerve cells. This results in abnormal changes of the tissue in the retina, brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and organs.

Images by others

I do not believe that a respiratory infection could have caused the disease, it is however common for boas and pythons to get the disease from snake mites (Ophionyssus Natricis). Snake mites have often been found in collections in which IBD has occurred but it is not connected with all cases of infection.

Images by others

In order to diagnose the disease, organ tissue samples must be obtained for analysis. The first signs may include symptoms of regurgitation, head tremors, abnormal shedding, chronic regurgitation and lack of appetite or refusal to feed. The snake will lose weight and may develop clogged nostrils, inflammation of the mucous lining in the mouth and/or pneumonia. The disease can rapidly progress to produce nervous system disorders, such as disorientation, corkscrewing of the head and neck, holding the head in abnormal and unnatural positions, rolling onto its back or stargazing.

Unfortunately there is no known treatment for IBD.

I strongly urge a quarantine all new boas and pythons for at least 4-6 months, and to take precautions when visiting other collections, pet stores, expos or swaps.

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