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Characterisation, prevalence and severity of skin lesions caused by ophidiomycosis in a population of wild snakes

Allain, Steven J. R., Leech, David I., Hopkins, Kevin, Seilern-Moy, Katharina, Rodriguez-Ramos Fernandez, Julia, Griffiths, Richard A., Lawson, Becki (2024) Characterisation, prevalence and severity of skin lesions caused by ophidiomycosis in a population of wild snakes. Scientific Reports, 14 (1). Article Number 5162. ISSN 2045-2322. (doi:10.1038/s41598-024-55354-5) (KAR id:105188)


Ophidiomycosis is an emerging infectious disease affecting wild snakes in the Northern Hemisphere. Recently confirmed in Great Britain, the prevalence, severity and significance of ophidiomycosis has yet to be characterised in free-living snakes at a population level in Europe. Therefore, a population of barred grass snakes (Natrix helvetica) in eastern England was monitored for three seasons (May 2019 to October 2021), to investigate the prevalence (25.5%; 191/750 snakes) and severity of skin lesions and their aetiology. The most frequently observed skin lesion characteristics were changes in scale colour, crusting, and scale margin erosion. The majority of such lesions (96.9%; 185/191 snakes) was observed on the ventral surface along the length of the body. The severity of skin lesions was considered mild in more than half of the cases (53.1%; 98/191 snakes). Predominantly, skin lesions were observed in adult snakes (72.8%; 139/191 snakes). Combined histological examinations and qPCR tests of skin lesions from N. helvetica sloughs and/or carcasses confirmed a diagnosis of ophidiomycosis. Further targeted surveillance, supported by molecular and histological examinations to confirm skin lesion aetiology, is required to determine the extent to which our findings reflect the occurrence of ophidiomycosis in populations within wider landscapes.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/s41598-024-55354-5
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH541 Ecology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Funders: Natural Environment Research Council (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2024 15:09 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2024 16:03 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Allain, Steven J. R..

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Griffiths, Richard A..

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