DAO 111:183-190 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02783

Clostridium perfringens septicemia in a long-beaked common dolphin Delphinus capensis: an etiology of gas bubble accumulation in cetaceans

Kerri Danil1,*, Judy A. St. Leger2, Sophie Dennison3, Yara Bernaldo de Quirós4, Miriam Scadeng5, Erika Nilson2, Nicole Beaulieu

1Marine Mammal & Turtle Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 8901 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
2Sea World San Diego, 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, CA 92109, USA
310 Liberty Way no. 102, 851 Indiana Street no. 307, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA
4Department of Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
5Center for Functional MRI, Department of Radiology, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: An adult female long-beaked common dolphin Delphinus capensis live-stranded in La Jolla, California, USA, on July 30, 2012 and subsequently died on the beach. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging revealed gas bubble accumulation in the vasculature, organ parenchyma, mandibular fat pads, and subdermal sheath as well as a gas-filled cavity within the liver, mild caudal abdominal effusion, and fluid in the uterus. Gross examination confirmed these findings and also identified mild ulcerations on the palate, ventral skin, and flukes, uterine necrosis, and multifocal parenchymal cavitations in the brain. Histological review demonstrated necrosis and round clear spaces interpreted as gas bubbles with associated bacterial rods within the brain, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. Anaerobic cultures of the lung, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and abdominal fluid yielded Clostridium perfringens, which was further identified as type A via a multiplex PCR assay. The gas composition of sampled bubbles was typical of putrefaction gases, which is consistent with the by-products of C. perfringens, a gas-producing bacterium. Gas bubble formation in marine mammals due to barotrauma, and peri- or postmortem off-gassing of supersaturated tissues and blood has been previously described. This case study concluded that a systemic infection of C. perfringens likely resulted in production of gas and toxins, causing tissue necrosis.


KEY WORDS: Cetacea · Clostridium · Delphinus capensis · Disease · Gas bubble · Gas gangrene · Marine mammals · Strandings


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Cite this article as: Danil K, St. Leger JA, Dennison S, Bernaldo de Quirós Y, Scadeng M, Nilson E, Beaulieu N (2014) Clostridium perfringens septicemia in a long-beaked common dolphin Delphinus capensis: an etiology of gas bubble accumulation in cetaceans. Dis Aquat Org 111:183-190. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02783

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