Frog virus 3 (FV3) and FV3-like viruses, are members of the genus Ranavirus (family Iridoviridae), and they have been associated with infectious diseases that may be contributing to amphibian population declines. We examined the mode of transmission of an FV3-like virus, and potential hosts and reservoirs of the virus in a local amphibian community. Using the polymerase chain reaction to detect infected animals, we found an FV3-like virus in south-central Ontario, Canada, amphibian communities, where it infects sympatric amphibian species, including ranid and hylid tadpoles (Rana sylvatica, Hyla versicolor, and Pseudacris spp.), larval salamanders (Ambystoma spp.), and adult eastern-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens). The high prevalence of FV3-like infections in caudate larvae suggests that salamanders are likely to be both hosts and reservoirs. In laboratory FV3 challenges of R. sylvatica, the rate of infection was dependent on the amount of virus to which the animals were exposed. In addition, although vertical transmission was suspected, horizontal transmission through exposure to infected pond water is the most likely route of infection in tadpoles. Based on our observations, a simple model of FV3/FV3-like virus transmission postulates that, in aquatic amphibian communities, transmission of the virus occurs between anuran and urodele species, with ambystomatid salamanders the most likely reservoir for the ranavirus in our study.
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Vol. 44 • No. 1