Further evidence of Chelonid herpesvirus 5 (ChHV5) latency: High levels of ChHV5 DNA detected in clinically healthy marine turtles

Alonzo Alfaro-Núñez*, Anders Miki Bojesen, Mads F. Bertelsen, Nathan Wales, George H. Balazs, M. Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Chelonid herpesvirus 5 (ChHV5) has been consistently associated with fibropapillomatosis (FP), a transmissible neoplastic disease of marine turtles. Whether ChHV5 plays a causal role remains debated, partly because while FP tumours have been clearly documented to contain high concentrations of ChHV5 DNA, recent PCRbased studies have demonstrated that large proportions of asymptomatic marine turtles are also carriers of ChHV5. We used a real-time PCR assay to quantify the levels of ChHV5 Glycoprotein B (gB) DNA in both tumour and non-tumour skin tissues, from clinically affected and healthy turtles drawn from distant ocean basins across four species. In agreement with previous studies, higher ratios of viral to host DNA were consistently observed in tumour versus non-tumour tissues in turtles with FP. Unexpectedly however, the levels of ChHV5 gB DNA in clinically healthy turtles were significantly higher than in non-tumour tissues from FP positive turtles. Thus, a large proportion of clinically healthy sea turtle populations worldwide across species carry ChHV5 gB DNA presumably through persistent latent infections. ChHV5 appears to be ubiquitous regardless of the animals' clinical conditions. Hence, these results support the theory that ChHV5 is a near ubiquitous virus with latency characteristics requiring co-factors, possibly environmental or immune related, to induce FP.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2274
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 Alfaro-Núñez et al.


  • Asymptomatic
  • Chelonid herpesvirus 5 (ChHV5)
  • Clinically healthy
  • Fibropapillomatosis (FP)
  • Glycoprotein B
  • Quantitative PCR
  • Ubiquitous
  • Viral loads

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