Volume 87, Issue 6
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



The role of non-avian vertebrates in the ecology of eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus (EEEV) is unresolved, but mounting evidence supports a potential role for snakes in the EEEV transmission cycle, especially as over-wintering hosts. To determine rates of exposure and infection, we examined serum samples from wild snakes at a focus of EEEV in Alabama for viral RNA using quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Two species of vipers, the copperhead () and the cottonmouth (), were found to be positive for EEEV RNA using this assay. Prevalence of EEEV RNA was more frequent in seropositive snakes than seronegative snakes. Positivity for the quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction in cottonmouths peaked in April and September. Body size and sex ratios were not significantly different between infected and uninfected snakes. These results support the hypothesis that snakes are involved in the ecology of EEEV in North America, possibly as over-wintering hosts for the virus.


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  • Received : 23 Apr 2012
  • Accepted : 30 Aug 2012

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