What is it about?

Canine distemper virus (CDV) was once considered a pathogen only of the domestic dog. However, it is now considered a global multi-host pathogen capable of causing high mortality in a wide range of carnivore species, making it an important disease in the field of conservation medicine. Chitwan National Park provides habitat to 32% of Nepal’s mammals, including the endangered Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and Asiatic wild-dog (Cuon alpinus), for which exposure to CDV could pose a conservation threat. Free-roaming dog populations, if engaging in direct or indirect contact with wildlife, could pose a risk of pathogen transmission at disease interfaces. Canine distemper virus is common in free-roaming dogs in other countries and is considered endemic in Nepal but has been little studied in domestic or wildlife species. During November 2019, we collected demographic data and conducted a cross-sectional serosurvey from 100 free-roaming dogs in the buffer zone and surrounding areas of Chitwan National Park. Samples were analysed for anti-CDV antibodies using the FASTest® CDV Ab lateral flow test. Our findings demonstrated seroprevalence indicating past exposure to CDV of 80.0% (95% CI: 70.8 – 87.3).

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Why is it important?

Canine distemper virus gained wider conservation interest following one of the most famous wildlife outbreaks in 1994 involving lions (Panthera leo) in the Serengeti which coincided with the loss of almost one third of this population. Canine distemper virus has now also been identified in wild tigers in Russia and India. Chitwan National Park is an important protected area providing habitat to endangered carnivores for which exposure CDV could pose a conservation threat and is currently understudied both in domestic and wildlife species in Nepal.


Canine distemper virus is a multi-host pathogen and may circulate in complex reservoir systems involving multiple species. Understanding disease reservoir systems should form the foundation of any management decisions involving multi-host pathogens. This study generated demographic and baseline seroprevalence data for canine distemper virus in the free-roaming dog population surrounding Chitwan National Park. Our findings provide a foundation for further canine distemper virus research in this important conservation area of Nepal.

Inga McDermott
University of Edinburgh

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This page is a summary of: Seroprevalence of canine distemper virus (CDV) in the free-roaming dog (Canis familiaris) population surrounding Chitwan National Park, Nepal, PLoS ONE, February 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0281542.
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