Aleutian disease is a parvovirus infection characterized by poor reproduction, gradual weight loss, oral and GI bleeding, renal failure and uremia, and high mortality. All color phases of mink may be infected, but light color phases genetically derived from the Aleutian color phase are most susceptible. The causative parvovirus is not related to mink viral enteritis (see Mink Viral Enteritis). Transmission occurs in utero and by direct or indirect contact with infected mink.
After infection, immunoglobulin levels frequently increase markedly. Immunoglobulins are unable to neutralize the virus; immune complexes form and deposit in various tissues, resulting in immune-complex glomerulonephritis and arteritis. Gross pathologic changes include splenomegaly, renal changes (varying from swelling and petechiation to atrophy and pitting), and enlargement of mesenteric lymph nodes. Histologic lesions include plasma cell infiltration in the kidneys, liver, spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow; bile duct proliferation; membranous glomerulonephritis; and fibrinoid arteritis. Kits from dams negative for Aleutian disease virus may die from acute interstitial pneumonia.
Aleutian disease is controlled through a test and slaughter program. Positive mink are identified by blood testing for specific antibody by counterimmunoelectrophoresis or lateral flow ELISA. All positive mink should be culled. Mink to be kept for breeding stock should be tested in late fall (before selection of breeding stock and pelting) and in January or February (before breeding). New introductions to the herd should be tested.
Genetic selection of resistant mink using a quantitative ELISA and/or iodine agglutination test is being used to increase survivability and reproduction. These tests identify mink with hypergammaglobulinemia for culling. The quantitative ELISA identifies overall antibody levels to Aleutian virus, allowing mink with lower antibody levels to be selected for breeding.
There is no vaccination or effective treatment. The virus is present in the saliva, urine, feces, and blood of infected mink. Pens should be steam cleaned and dipped in or sprayed with 2% sodium hydroxide. Equipment should be disinfected after handling, vaccinating, or testing mink on infected farms. Raccoons and flies may serve as vectors, and their control is essential.