Parapoxvirus causes a deleterious disease in red squirrels associated with UK population declines

D. M. Tompkins, A.W. Sainsbury, P. Nettleton, D. Buxton, J. Gurnell

Abstract

The disease implications of novel pathogens need to be considered when investigating the ecological impact of species translocations on native fauna. Traditional explanations based on competition or predation may often not be the whole story. Evidence suggests that an emerging infectious disease, caused by a parapoxvirus, may be a significant component of the impact that the introduced grey squirrel has had on UK red squirrel populations. Here we validate the potential role of parapoxvirus by proving that the virus is highly pathogenic in the red squirrel while having no detectable effect on grey squirrel health.