The first kobuviruses described from Africa

Side-striped jackal, spotted hyena, golden jackal - in those three canids the canine kobuvirus was found. Photos: East; Benhaiem; Höner / IZW

An international team of researchers led by scientists at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) genetically describe the first kobuviruses to be reported from Africa. The results show that the viruses are less host-specific than previously assumed. The study has been published in the scientific journal “Virology”.

Current knowledge of the recently described genus Kobuvirus is limited. In humans and livestock, kobuviruses are known to cause gastroenteritis and hence are important for both health and economic reasons. To date, canine kobuvirus is known to infect domestic dogs in Europe, the USA and Asia. Before the current study, the only wild carnivore known to be infected with canine kobuvirus was the red fox in Europe, and Kobuvirus infection had not been reported from Africa.

A team of researchers from the Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute, the Ecosystem Alliance (USA) and the IZW investigated Kobuvirus infection in wild carnivores in the Serengeti National Park (NP) in Tanzania, East Africa, and in domestic dogs living in villages outside the park. Using state-of-the-art molecular techniques, the scientists were able to provide the complete Kobuvirus genome from three wild carnivore species, the spotted hyena, the side-striped jackal and golden jackal, and the local domestic dog. These species were infected with canine kobuvirus strains genetically distinct from those in geographical regions outside Africa. Interestingly, the strains infecting wild carnivores inside the Serengeti NP were genetically distinct from those infecting domestic dogs outside the park, and genetically distinct strains were detected in domestic dogs from different villages. By demonstrating for the first time canine kobuvirus in a non-canid host, the spotted hyena, the results of the study provide evidence that kobuviruses are less host-specific than previously thought.


Olarte-Castillo XA, Heeger F, Mazzoni CJ, Greenwood AD, Fyumagwa R, Moehlman PD, Hofer H, East ML (2015): Molecular characterization of canine kobuvirus in wild carnivores and the domestic dog in Africa. Virology 477, 89-97. doi:10.1016/j.virol.2015.01.010
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Background information:

The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) investigates the vitality and adaptability of wildlife populations in mammalian and avian species of outstanding ecological interest that face anthropogenic challenges. It studies the adaptive value of traits in the life cycle of wildlife, wildlife diseases and clarifies the biological basis and development of methods for the protection of threatened species. Such knowledge is a precondition for a scientifically based approach to conservation and for the development of concepts for the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources. The IZW belongs to the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (


The Leibniz Association connects 89 independent research institutions that range in focus from the natural, engineering and environmental sciences via economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities. Leibniz Institutes address issues of social, economic and ecological relevance. They conduct knowledge-driven and applied basic research, maintain scientific infrastructure and provide research-based services. The Leibniz Association identifies focus areas for knowledge transfer to policy-makers, academia, business and the public. Leibniz Institutes collaborate intensively with universities – in the form of “WissenschaftsCampi” (thematic partnerships between university and non-university research institutes), for example – as well as with industry and other partners at home and abroad. They are subject to an independent evaluation procedure that is unparalleled in its transparency. Due to the institutes’ importance for the country as a whole, they are funded jointly by the Federation and the Länder, employing some 17,500 individuals, including 8,800 researchers. The entire budget of all the institutes is approximately 1.5 billion EUR.