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Prepared by: Michael J. Huerkamp, DVM, Diplomate ACLAM

March 21, 1999

Plan for Eradication: Rollins and Dental

Time Table

  • March 23, 2000
    Deadline for ordering rats for the next five weeks.
  • March 28, 2000
    Moratorium on adding new rats to Rollins animal research facility colonies by purchase, transfer from another investigator, or breeding colony births.
  • March 28,2000
    Tentative start of deliberate SDAV infection campaign. Inoculation of rats with SDAV live virus, strain 681.
  • May 2, 2000
    Tentative end of the moratorium. Return to business as usual.

  • This plan was approved by the DAR faculty advisory committee on March 16, 2000.

Moratorium Exceptions

Investigators acquiring animals for acute use may continue to order animals or maintain standing orders for rats under one of the following conditions:

  • Use within 24 hours of delivery from the vendor: Rats will not be uncrated and housed in the animal research facility, but will be kept in the original shipping crate for subsequent delivery to the laboratory.
  • Use after 24 hours of delivery: Such rats will be housed at a remote site and will be delivered on a scheduled, as-need-basis to laboratories for immediate terminal use.
  • Investigators wishing to be exempted from the moratorium and abiding by the conditions above should contact the DAR Office, 404.727.8395

Special Procedures

All rats in the Rollins Center and Dental School are under quarantine and will be so until at least May 2, 2000. This means that investigators, research personnel, and DAR staff should not cycle through other buildings after being in the Rollins Center and should schedule Rollins activities last in any day before going home. It goes without saying that rats should not be moved from building-to-building.


An outbreak of sialodacryoadenitis virus (SDAV, coronavirus) was diagnosed in the Rollins Research Center animal research facility on February 29, 2000 based upon clinical signs and was subsequently confirmed by seroconversion. The epizootic appeared to be the consequence of an outbreak that occurred at Harlan Sprague-Dawley production sites and disseminated nationally in late January.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is SDAV?
  • SDAV is highly infectious and spreads rapidly by aerosol. It is rarely lethal and is self-limiting. Suckling and weanling rats are most at risk of developing severe clinical disease. Rats will recover from disease and develop immunity. Providing new susceptible animals are not added to the population through breeding or purchase, infection will eventually run its course. This is the rationale for a moratorium. It takes 3-5 weeks for infection to spread completely through a large animal research facility providing barrier caging systems are not used. The incubation period from exposure until virus shedding is generally less than a week and often as short as 2 days. Acute clinical signs are seen about 7 days post-exposure and infected animals shed infective virus for only about 7 days. The virus is short-lived in the environment lasting only 2-3 days in areas of contamination.
  • What are the clinical signs of infection?
  • Typically, infection with SDAV is characterized by ocular squinting or bulging eyes, corneal ulcerations, mild pneumonia, nasal and ocular discharges, sneezing and often spectacular “mumps-like” swelling of salivary glands in the neck. Rats may also show cyanosis or respiratory distress upon restraint. Previous outbreaks of SDAV at Emory University were in 1994 and 1988. Because of general malaise and pneumonia, SDAV-infected rats should be expected to lose weight, perform abnormally in behavioral paradigms and are at high risk of dying under anesthesia. Infection is generally not fatal except in certain cases in suckling rats.
  • How long does it take to resolve infection in a single animal?
  • Clinical signs last about a week after which rats should begin regaining weight and return to normal. However, ocular and microscopic salivary gland lesions may take up to 6 weeks to resolve.
  • Are mice, humans or other species at risk of infection?
  • SDAV is a virus disease specific for rats. No other species are at risk.
  • What if we do not do anything and decide to coexist with infection?
  • If we fail to take action, the virus will become enzootic in our colonies. This means that many animals will be immune, but some animals will always be infected and shedding virus. Suckling rats, protected by maternal antibody, will become infected after weaning. Naive rats newly acquired from vendors will become infected sometime after arrival. Infection will always be smoldering and pockets of animals will be infected introducing variability into behavioral research, pulmonary studies, safety of anesthesia, and potentially confounding reproduction.
  • Is there a protective vaccine?
  • There is no vaccine against SDAV; infection is the only means to confer immunity. Rats acquired from commercial vendors have not been exposed to SDAV, are not immune, and are at great risk of clinical disease.
  • What is the purpose of deliberate virus infection?
  • The key to terminating infection is to create a “fire wall” against infection by creating immunity in all rats. This is done by placing a moratorium on new acquisitions, building-up an inventory of rats for research, and actively infecting all of these rats with live virus. Simultaneous infection reduces the 3-5 week period necessary for natural spread of the virus to 7-10 days. We used this strategy successfully in 1994 to halt a similar outbreak.
  • Are there any other management options?
  • Other options are to depopulate all rats (an unpalatable consideration) or to enarct a moratorium and let natural infection take its course. The latter requires 6-8 weeks (1-3 weeks longer than our plan) and, with our increasing use of ventilated caging systems, there is no guarantee that we will have effective transmission to all rats.
  • What complications can be expected for research?
  • Rats should not be anesthetized for the first 10-14 days after infection due to impaired pulmonary physiology. Behavioral studies will also be confounded by clinical illness and for some period during convalescence. Studies involving the eyes, salivary glands, olfactory system or lungs are obviously at risk for up to 6 weeks post-infection. Breeding colonies may show reduced reproduction and poor growth of sucklings and weanlings. Pulmonary macrophages will have inhibited phagocytosis and interleukin-1 production. Not all projects may be affected in these adverse ways. Many rats already on hand have probably recovered from SDAV infection and should be immune to further clinical involvement.