Huffington Post David Moye First Posted: 08/15/12 12:09 PM ET Updated: 08/16/12 02:50 PM ET
Microbiologists are closer to understanding a strange ailment that causes snakes to act drunk and even tie themselves in knots.
Experts have identified an ailment they call "mad snake disease," a disorder which causes snakes like boa constrictors and pythons to regurgitate food and "stargaze," a term for staring off aimlessly for long periods of time, MedicalDaily.com reports.
"Some of the symptoms are pretty bizarre," Michael Buchmeier, professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, Irvine, told reporters. The snakes "tie themselves in a knot and they can't get out of it."
Experts claim a new set of viruses -- or arenaviruses -- are to blame for the disease, according to the New York Daily News.
Until now, arenaviruses have never been seen in reptiles. The usually effect rodents and other mammals, including humans, Buchmeier said.
"The fact that we have apparently identified a whole new lineage of arenaviruses that may predate the New and Old World is very exciting," Buchmeier said according to SBS.com.au.
The investigation was inspired by an outbreak of IBD among snakes at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco. After looking at DNA samples from infected boas and pythons, researchers identified signs of an unusual virus normally found in rodents.
Joe DeRisi, a senior author of the study said that while IBD can devastate collections, zoos and aquariums that it infiltrates, there is no evidence the disease can spread to humans, according to the New York Daily News. Still, researchers want to figure out how the arenavirus gets transmitted from snake to snake.
GALLERY: ANIMAL IN THE NEWS
Elephant puts a ballot in ballot box during campaign to promote the general election in Ayutthaya province on June 21, 2011. The July 3 general election will be the first since Thailand was rocked by its deadliest political violence in decades last year, when more than 90 people died in street clashes between armed police and opposition protesters. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul, AFP/Getty Images)
<a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=726326990716438&set=a.561893947159744.145379.100000174321818&type=1&theater" target="_hplink">Elvis,</a> a Savannah cat, who weighed 24.8 pounds and measured 40 inches from tip to tail, recently died from a tumor in its sinus cavity.
Sadly, Gemini, a kitten from Rhode Island, had a short life.
The odds of seeing these three together are roughly 1 in 900 quintillion -- but a series of timely donations has allowed Connecticut's Maritime Aquarium to put together one of the most unusual lobster displays ever. While the blue lobster is a 1 in a million catch, the orange and calico are even rarer -- with the odds of finding them roughly 1 in 30 million.
LEFT: The Stargazer fish which bears an uncanny resemblance to Homer Simpson. (Caters News / Getty Images)
At two weeks old, Beyonce, a Dachsund mix born at a Northern California animal shelter, is just under four inches long and is in the running for the title of World's Smallest Dog. Here she is pictured resting on an iPhone.
'Sprinkles' the Koala following her life saving radiation treatment at the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre in Brisbane, Australia, August 9, 2011. Suffering from an extremely rare case of excessive drooling, sprinkles developed a skin infection due to the excessive moisture flowing from her mouth.
Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley left $12 million for her dog Trouble when she died in 2007, but a judge reduced the bequest to $2 million.
Alexander Lacey, the big cat trainer for Ringling Brothers And Barnum & Bailey Circus, has been working with lions and tigers for 18 years, ever since he followed his dad into the business.
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? No, it's Charlie -- an unlucky cat who happens to look just like the evil Lord Voldemort from the "Harry Potter" films. Charity workers are trying to find a new home for the British kitty, who lost his nose and ears to skin cancer.
Indian army personnel use a bulldozer during a rescue mission to save a wild elephant trapped in a water reservoir tank at Bengdubi army cantonment area some 25 kms from Siliguri on August 30, 2011. A wild elephant fell into the water reservoir tank as a herd crossed the area. Army personnel of 16 Field Ammunition Depot along with wildlife elephant squad of Mahananda wildlife sanctuary joined forces to save the animal.
The New Zealand SPCA taught dogs to drive as part of a campaign meant to demonstrate the intelligence or rescue dogs and boost adoption rates. Yes, these dogs are actually driving cars. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/05/dogs-driving-cars-new-zealand-spca_n_2244476.html" target="_hplink">Read the whole story here.</a>
Hania, a 4-year-old Great Dane, feeds her 3-day-old puppies in the Warsaw suburb of Nowa Iwiczna on March 17. Hania gave birth by cesarean section to 17 puppies.
Charles the Monarch, a Labradoodle, looks so much like a lion that he has sparked multiple 911 calls from concerned citizens fearing that the king of beasts was on the loose
Motala, age 50, rests in the afternoon sun with the new prosthetic made for her at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve August 29, 2011 Lampang,Thailand. Motala lost a foot many years back after stepping on a land mine and now is on her third prosthetic, as they need to be changed according to the weight of the elephant. The world's first elephant hospital assists in medical care and helps to promote a better understanding of the elephant's physiology, important in treating them for illness. For generations elephants have been a part of the Thai culture, although today the Thai elephant mostly is domesticated animal, since Thailand now has few working elephants. Many are used in the tourism sector at special elephant parks or zoos, where they perform in shows. In some cases Thailand is still deals with roaming elephants on the city streets, usually after the mahout, an elephant driver, becomes unemployed, which often causes the elephant serious stress.
Ambam, a silverback gorilla at the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, England, shows off the stance that's turned him into a viral video sensation. Ambam doesn't do the typical ape walk -- he stands and struts like a person.
Heidi the cross-eyed opossum is pictured in her enclosure at the zoo in Leipzig, eastern Germany on June 9, 2011. Heidi moved to her new enclosure at the Gondwanaland tropical experience world, which will be inaugurated on July 1, 2011 and where Heidi will be presented to the public for the first time. Cross-eyed Heidi made the headlines in December 2010 and became an internet hit, winning more than 65,000 "friends" on social networking website Facebook.
The "Mirai", which means 'future' in Japanese, measures 17.79 inches from the ground to highest part of the car. It was created by students and teachers of The Automobile Engineering Course at Okayama Sanyo High School in Asakuchi, Japan.
This photo provided by Sean McAfee from Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, shows a dead raccoon that McAfee saw with the road dividing line painted over it before he stopped his motorcycle to take the picture on Franklin Rd. in Johnstown, Pa. According to PennDOT traffic engineer John Ambrosini, paint crews know to avoid such animals and usually have a foreman on the job to clear any dead animals off the road before the paint-spraying truck equipment passes by. This crew didn't have a foreman that day, and the equipment was too big to turn around in traffic on the curvy, narrow road so the line could be repainted without the carcass in the way.
Lisa Marie Bach leads her pet rabbit Marie through an obstacle course in the middle-weight category at the 5th Open Rabbit Sport Tournament (5. offene Kaninchensport Turnier) on August 28, 2011 in Rommerz near Fulda, Germany. Eighty rabbits competed in light-weight, middle-weight and jumping-for-points categories at today's tournament in Rommerz that is based on Kanin Hop, or Rabbit Hopping. Rabbit Hopping is a growing trend among pet rabbit owners in Central Europe and the first European Championships are scheduled to be held later this year in Switzerland.
When a traffic jam kept surgeon Catherine Baucom from driving to work to meet a patient, she borrowed the bike of a 7-year-old and started pedaling.
A group of lemurs encounters a unusual roadblock on the way to their feeding den: a turtle. The lemurs clearly don't want to get into a territorial spat with the creature... so they take turns leaping over it in this photo sequence shot at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Look at that coat! <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/ikea-monkey-toronot_n_2270707.html?1355150852" target="_hplink">This little animal</a> got loose in an IKEA parking lot in Toronto. It was apparently scared, but eventually was reclaimed by its owners who were inside the store when the monkey escaped from its cage.
Thirteen months ago, Andre the turtle suffered massive injuries from boats that left a massive hole in his shell and the inside of his body exposed to the elements. However, thanks to some innovative treatments, including using orthodontic techniques to repair his shell and a vacuum treatment on open wounds, he is scheduled to be set free on Aug. 3.
A new-born rabbit without ears is held in Namie City, just outside the 30km exclusion zone of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The owner of the rabbit says it was born without ears on May 7.
In this photo taken on Thursday, May 19, 2011, a dog nurses two liger cubs at a zoo in Weihai in east China's Shandong province. Cong Wen of Xixiakou Wildlife Zoo in eastern China says four cubs were born to a female tiger and a male lion on May 13. The tiger mom fed the ligers for four days then for unknown reasons abandoned them, she says. Chinese zoo workers brought in a dog to nurse them instead, but two died of weakness. (AP)
This pet duck, named 'Duckie,' won't hurt himself on the hot sands of San Diego's beaches thanks to a pair of customized booties made especially for him. Previously, the owner, who goes by the name "Miss Love," had been putting duct tape over his feet instead.
The "alien" creature discovered in South Africa on July 10, 2013 is actually a baboon, a local veterinarian confirmed this week. The next slide is a close-up of the animal's head.
TOKYO - JANUARY 20: A woman strokes a cat at Nekorobi cat cafe on January 20, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan. Changes to Japan's Animal Protection Law threaten the future of these furry bars by imposing a curfew on cats and dogs. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)
Elephant polo players from the Spice girls team (left) and the British Airways British Army team battle it out for 5th place during the final day at the King's Cup Elephant polo tournament Sept. 11, 2011, in Hua Hin, Thailand.This year marked the 10th edition of the polo tournament with 12 international teams participating for the unusual annual charity sports event.
In an Aug. 10, 2012 photo provided by the University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History researchers, from left, Rebecca Reichart, Leroy Nunez, Nicholas Coutu, Claudia Grant and Kenneth Krysko examine the internal anatomy of the largest Burmese python found in Florida to date, on the University of Florida campus. The 17-foot-7-inch snake weighed 164 pounds and carried 87 eggs in its oviducts, a state record. Following scientific investigation, the snake will be mounted for exhibition at the museum for about five years, and then returned for exhibition at Everglades National Park. (AP Photo/University of Florida, Kristen Grace)
Jenny Sue Rhoades sat down on her couch to watch television when something outside caught her eye. It was a large Florida black bear walking through the back yard of her Barry Court home in southwest Seminole County.
Giant Malaysian Shield Praying Mantis pictured in Igor's studio in Munich, Germany.
Of course she's unhappy. Who likes getting weighed right after the holidays? This is Agathe, a cane toad, and she's sitting on a toy scale during an annual animal inventory at the Hanover Zoo in Germany on Jan. 5. Agathe weighs a slight hop over 4 pounds.
This adorable injured baby pig was found roaming a hotel lobby near Honolulu's airport. The Hawaiian Humane Society renamed her Pukalani and says she'll be available for adoption later in March.
The flattened and preserved reptile is at the center of possible legal action against three area men charged with it's theft and subsequent display on a Ford pickup at a nearby mud-bogging party in Michigan.
Meet Tonik, a poodle-shih tzu mix that is up for adoption at <a href="https://www.homewardboundawg.com/" target="_hplink">Homeward Bound Pet Rescue</a> in Mishawaka, Ind. (Credit:<a href="http://www.petphotosbyrenny.com/" target="_hplink"> Renny Mills Photography</a>)
Roo the Reading Education Assistance Dog (R.E.A.D) helps a pupil at Graytown Elementary School in Graytown, Ohio.
District councils have slapped a collecting ban on one of the West Country's most loveable characters - Star, the bowtie wearing DUCK (pictured) See SWNS story SWDUCK; Star the duck, who has raised more than £6,500 may be forced to quit after he has been told he is no longer allowed to collect for Children's Hospice South West without a permit. District councils believe Star should be fair to all charities and want to limit how often members of the public are asked to donate by various organisations to avoid it becoming "irritating." His owner, Barrie Hayman, from Bideford, Devon, was left furious at the decision and wants to try and raise the most money possible for the sick children.
This stray orange tabby in Houston earned the nickname 'Cupid' after he survived a piercing shoulder to shoulder wound in January 2012. A vet safely removed the arrow and 'Cupid' is expected to make a complete recovery.
Six-month-old puppy Princess has such delicate skin she can't go outside. While other dogs run free at Britain's Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary, Princess must gaze through the window. But this canine, otherwise known as Britain's Saddest Puppy, has become a minor celebrity in the media.
Two fishermen in northeastern Mexico claim they netted a dead great white shark estimated to be near 20-feet-long on April 15, 2012.
Swallow, an 11-year-old sheep-sized cow from the West Yorkshire region of England, is one of the stars of the 2011 edition of "Guinness World Records." This 33-inch-high Dexter is the world's smallest cow.
This situation sounds scary, but it's actually quite cute. A lion at the Oregon Zoo tries to get a baby! One-year-old Jack was visiting the zoo with his family while wearing a black and white striped jacket. There were lots of children at the zoo that day, but the lion only came over whenever Jack sat down by the glass. The lion scratched and bit the glass partition separating the two, but the he seemed to be unphased by the commotion. Some think the lion thought Jack looked like a baby zebra.
This little seal was nearly strangled to death when it got tangled up in a discarded G-string thong near the Lovers Leap Cliffs of New Zealand. Luckily, a passerby saw the panicked pup, and conservation workers were able to free the animal from the offending garment.
After driving about 85 miles to Santa Cruz, Calif., a man discovered that this runaway kitten had been inside his car's engine in March 2012.
In this picture taken, Monday, June 4, 2012, Shar Pei dog Cleopatra feeds two baby tigers in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia. Two baby tigers whose mother refused to feed them found an unusual wet nurse, a wrinkled, sand-colored Shar Pei dog named Cleopatra. The cubs were born in late May in a zoo at the October health resort in Sochi.
The horse, which is boarded on the 4 acres of land next to the O'Brien's home, backed into the swimming pool where it became trapped. Officials with the Brevard Zoo, a veterinarian, and the Brevard County Fire Department responded along with a hazardous materials team. The horse was not injured.
A farmer in China's Shandong province has saved a two-legged lamb after being touched by its struggle to survive. Farmer Cui Jinxiu said the lamb was one of two born in July 2010. "The first one was a very healthy and normal one," she told Rex USA. "However, the second one surprised me. With a further look I was surprised to find that the lamb only has two legs." The family thought the lamb wouldn't survive, but it proved its strong desire to live. "I thought of dumping it after it was born, but the next morning it even stood up by itself."
An orangutan in Malaysia is kicking its smoking habit. Wildlife officials have removed Shirley from a state zoo after the captive primate was regularly spotted smoking cigarettes that zoo visitors had tossed into its enclosure.
Fizz Girl, a Munchkin Cat from San Diego, Calif., has grabbed the record title for Shortest Living Cat. Measuring in at just 6 inches tall from floor to shoulder, Fizz Girl weighs 4 pounds, 2.3 ounces. Munchkin cats are a special breed that have little legs caused by a naturally occurring genetic mutation.