Fibropapillomatosis (FP) of marine turtles is a neoplastic disease associated with infection by a poorly characterized herpesvirus, which has recently been named Chelonid herpesvirus 5 (ChHV5; previously also known as FP-THV or CFPHV) and was assigned, based on partial genomic sequences, to the subfamily alphaherpesvirinae (Davison et al., 2009).
Unfortunately, serial propagation in cell cultures of ChHV5 has not yet been successful. Therefore, the corresponding features of basic virology, pathogenesis, and epidemiology are not well understood and prophylactic measures and/or possibilities for selective clinical interventions are difficult to assess. However, the viral agent can be detected and quantified by various PCR-based methods.
We have cloned the viral genome as a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC), from which the viral sequence was determined . Based on these new sequences, we have developed anti-peptide sera, which recognize particular proteins of ChHV5, for example the capsid protein VP26. Using this serum, we have identified small foci of ChHV5 replication on the tumor surface . Moreover, based on rafts consisting of persistently infected fibroblasts, overlaid with uninfected keratinocytes, we established the first in vitro culture for ChHV5 . Presently, we are working on the establishment of serological tools for tracing the infection among marine turtles in the wild.
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Cover Illustration: Fibropapillomatose