"IBD" arena information

Hello everyone! This post is long but I appreciate anyone taking the time to read about Arena virus in Boa Constrictors. This involves my own personal findings as well as information gathered over the last three years from various infected collections as well as consulting with vets working closely with the university of Flordia.

Arena is wider spread, and less deadly than one perceived. Testing many collections has shown almost every captive collections will find postives. Later on ill talk about strains and more importantly symptoms as they are also not what we once believed to be.
Most arena positive boas go their entire lives asymptomatic with good care.

Here you will find a discussion on testing, symptoms and the spread of “IBD”; Inclusion Body Disease. “IBD” is the result of an internal attack on a Boa by a particular virus known as arenavirus, which belongs to the family arenaviridae. Being a virus, the name itself can already confuse the learner and it is more appropriate to call it “Arena Virus” rather than IBD.
“Arena” is broad term and can be broken down into different strains. I’m sure everyone here has heard that snakes can have Inclusions/arenas in the samples taken from it that are not related to “IBD”.
Confusing right?
That is correct while also incorrect, testing has come a far way and know we can do more than test for “yes” and “no” type testing. PCRs have been developed to test the blood of a boa constrictor to find the strain, and once you know that you can get a QPCR done and find even the viral loads (which so far viral load counts do not sho any patterns that concern the status of the virus, besides in baby boas)

Giessen and GoldenGate strain seem to be the most common collection ending/ end stage causing, and a few others follow.

Stress inducing situations like moving, breeding, or a heating malfunction have shown to have boas cross into the symptomatic stage.

That leads me into symptoms and signs and end stage arena. My vet told me that his necropsies found the same thing in arena positive animals; thin esophagus membranes and mucus in the lungs even in asymptomatic carriers, although they were much more prone to respiratory infections throughout their lives as well as having random fits of coughing episodes. Have you ever heard a snake cough/hack before? Ris that keep coming back? That’s a symptom we didnt know correlated to arena yet is found in most.
Starvation is what typically followed once the snake leaves the asymptomatic stage and enters “End stage” arena; when all of their organs start to shut down and white blood cell counts skyrocket trying to fight the virus.
End stage can be random but also caused by stress related incidents; moving, breeding, heat malfunctions…
Rapid shedding is sometimes seen combined with anyone symptom. You will see them go into shed immediately after shedding their previous skin.
For a long time we thought Arena was a neurological disorder. Many snakes that have died however did not show any twisting or star gazing. Most would stop eating and then the back half of their bodies would start to lose all functioning movement until completely limp. When necropsies were performed it was shown that they had gone septic as well as mass organ failure. This leads me to believe any neurological like symptoms are biproducts of organ failure, and that chronic respiratory issues as well as not eating are much more likely to present themselves long before you see any overcome by the virus. The problem this revelation leads to is many people will spend time and money taking their snakes to the vet to get treated, not thinking arena the culprit and waste much time/money trying to get the snake better when they have a much larger issue at hand.

Spread; Arena is not easily spread with proper handling routines (sanitizing hands and equipment between snakes). It is not airborne however it can be spread by saliva blood and intercourse.
Examples of each would be; a snake striking a rat but not eating it so you give it to a different snake, switching around water bowls after filling them up between snakes (Saliva).
Mites taking blood from an infected snake and then making it’s way to another snake.
Any kind of sexual intercourse.
With that being said, the myth that you can keep a Ball python in the room as a “Canary” is inaccurate. Pockets of Arena positive animals were found, usually in breeding groups, but not the entire collection. Arena generally becomes deadly with age and growth and boas take 4 years to mature while ball pythons can be raised to maturity in a year or so, that is my theory on that as to why the go symptomatic so quickly.

Testing; The testing performed for blood is done at the University of Flordia. A qualified vet will take blood samples from a suspected boa and overnight it to their lab to be tested via PCR to find the exact strain.
Swab testing is also available and much cheaper than blood testing, but at a cost of not being nearly as accurate.


Ignore the spelling mistakes, this is a rough draft. FLORIDA****


This is interesting information, and good to know. I have a feeling people will still default to calling it IBD due to it being easier. I had heard that many snakes could live for a while and not be bothered by it. I would be interested to see what percentage of the ones that go symptomatic are inbred, since inbreeding weakens the immune system.

One thing I would like to point out though is that snakes can not cough or sneeze. They lack a diaphragm and are incapable of doing so, which is why RIs left untreated lead to death. They can’t get anything out of their lungs so they drown in their own fluids. Instead what is likely heard is aggressive wheezing as a result of the fluid in the lungs of the snake while it gasps for air.


Thank you very much OP for posting this info as I have never really heard much about this subject.


This is fantastic Matt, thank you for sharing it. :metal:

This is the amazing type of content we are after.


That’s one of the biggest leaps of public info about this virus I’ve seen, yet still so much more to learn. I appreciate your work thus far.


You’re correct! I kills me when I see people describing the hacking noise as something to ignore, and there’s even a small amount of people who think the noise they are hearing is the snake farting (I wish I was kidding lol)


To be fair… Snakes can/do fart. I have witnessed it, right before the tub, my arm, and my chest were redecorated.

But yeah, 99% of the time the sound people are hearing is not a snake fart


Thanks for the interesting information!

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