International Elephant Foundation Strategy In Support Of Asian Elephant Conservation

The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) is a U.S. based non-profit corporation formed in 1998 dedicated to the conservation of African and Asian Elephants. The goal of the IEF is to support conservation, awareness and scientific programs that enhance the survival of elephants and protects their habitats worldwide. Since 1999, IEF has provided support to over 100 elephant conservation projects worldwide and over $2.6 million in direct financial assistance. Click Here to view/download detail information


Development of Freeze-Dried Platelets to Combat Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus

Elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV), the leading cause of death of captive Asian elephants 1-8 years old, is associated with fulminant hemorrhagic disease (HD) that may be fatal within 24 hrs of initial clinical signs. Since its first formal description at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park in 1995, much has been learned about the virus, but effective treatments remain elusive. Antiviral therapies are not consistently effective and are often cost-prohibitive.

To date, treatment consists of supportive care, including fluid therapy. Recently, however, in both human and veterinary medicine, whole blood and concentrated blood-derived products have been effectively utilized as a novel method to control hemorrhage associated with viral hemorrhagic fevers. In particular, platelets, essential for effective coagulation, have been shown to play a role in the survival of critically ill patients. Precipitous drops in platelet count are poor prognostic indicators in many hemorrhagic diseases, and fatal cases of EEHV HD demonstrate similar findings.

The replacement of circulating platelets in the critical phase of the disease may provide the support needed for the patient to recover. Traditional platelet products have a short shelf life (5 days), and are therefore not feasible for elephant care facilities. However, novel freeze-dried platelet-derived hemostatic agents (FDPDHAs) can be stored at ambient temperatures for 24-36 months and reconstituted within minutes. Through collaboration with Cellphire, a platelet product will be produced from Asian elephant blood. This product will be made available for potential use in critically ill elephants through a network of elephant care facilities.


EEHV Viral Genomics and Pathogenesis

Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) causes an acute hemorrhagic disease with 80% fatality rate amongst Asian elephant calves and is a major threat to the breeding success and long-term survival of Asian elephants worldwide. The seven known major types of EEHV are evidently harbored as ubiquitous inapparent infections in all populations of Asian or African elephants, but for as yet unknown reasons, they can have devastating effects as primary infections in up to 20% of young Asian elephant calves worldwide. DNA diagnostic tests specific for all the different types of EEHV have been established that allow monitoring of infection episodes in individual elephants.

To try to understand the nature and biology of these multiple EEHV types, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have been successfully carrying out DNA sequence analysis directly from pathological blood, tissue or biopsy samples from all available cases of systemic disease, as well as from occasional localized reactivating latent virus.

Almost everything now known about the origins, epidemiology, evolution and protein coding content of the EEHVs has come from the results of these genetic sequencing studies, which include the complete 180,000 nucleotide genomes of EEHV1A and EEHV1B. Recent technical advances now offer an important and unexpected opportunity to substantially increase the level of comparative information about the genomes of EEHV2, EEHV3, EEHV4, EEHV5 and EEHV6 from pathological tissue of cases of infection.