Sea Turtle Hospital Staff and Whitney Faculty and Students Publish Paper in Communications Biology
Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Congratulations to Sea Turtle Hospital Staff and Whitney Faculty and Students who recently published a paper titled "Environmental DNA monitoring of oncogenic viral shedding and genomic profiling of sea turtle fibropapillomatosis reveals unusual viral dynamics" in Communications Biology.
Pathogen-induced cancers account for 15% of human tumors and are a growing concern for endangered wildlife. Fibropapillomatosis is an expanding virally and environmentally co-induced sea turtle tumor epizootic. Chelonid herpesvirus 5 (ChHV5) is implicated as a causative virus, but its transmission method and specific role in oncogenesis and progression is unclear. We applied environmental (e)DNA-based viral monitoring to assess viral shedding as a direct means of transmission, and the relationship between tumor burden, surgical resection and ChHV5 shedding. To elucidate the abundance and transcriptional status of ChHV5 across early, established, regrowth and internal tumors we conducted genomics and transcriptomics. We determined that ChHV5 is shed into the water column, representing a likely transmission route, and revealed novel temporal shedding dynamics and tumor burden correlations. ChHV5 was more abundant in the water column than in marine leeches. We also revealed that ChHV5 is latent in fibropapillomatosis, including early stage, regrowth and internal tumors; higher viral transcription is not indicative of poor patient outcome, and high ChHV5 loads predominantly arise from latent virus. These results expand our knowledge of the cellular and shedding dynamics of ChHV5 and can provide insights into temporal transmission dynamics and viral oncogenesis not readily investigable in tumors of terrestrial species.