DAO 117:215-227 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02941

Initial characterization of novel beaked whale morbillivirus in Hawaiian cetaceans

Jessica M. Jacob1, Kristi L. West1, Gregg Levine2, Susan Sanchez3, Brenda A. Jensen1,*

1College of Natural and Computational Sciences, Hawai’i Pacific University, 45-045 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, Hawai’i 96744, USA
2267 S. Kalaheo Avenue, Kailua, Hawai’i 96734, USA
3Department of Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Cetacean morbillivirus (CeMV) is a causative factor in epizootics that have resulted in thousands of deaths throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean since 1987, but less is known of its presence and significance in the Pacific. The first case of CeMV reported in Hawai’i was in a Longman’s beaked whale that stranded in 2010. The initial CeMV sequence from this individual indicated the possibility of a novel strain. To address this, archived samples from cetaceans that stranded in Hawai’i between 1997 and 2014 were screened for CeMV. The beaked whale morbillivirus (BWMV) was detected in 15 individuals representing 12 different species (24% of Code 1 and 2 stranded cetaceans). The earliest detected case was a humpback whale that stranded in 1998. Sequence comparisons of a 2.2 kb sequence spanning the phosphoprotein (P) and nucleocapsid (N) genes strongly suggest that the BWMV represents a novel strain of CeMV present in Hawai’i and the Central Pacific. In contrast to recently reported isolates from Brazil and Australia that may represent a distinct clade, BWMV appears to be more closely related to known strains of CeMV (dolphin morbillivirus; porpoise morbillivirus; and pilot whale morbillivirus). Detection rates with repeat sampling of positive lymph nodes were between 2 and 61%, illustrating the extreme heterogeneity that can occur in affected tissues. Taken together, these results suggest that BWMV may be common and established in Hawaiian cetacean populations. BWMV will be important for understanding CeMV and health threats in the relatively understudied cetaceans of the Pacific.


KEY WORDS: Cetacean · Morbillivirus · Pacific · Hawai’i


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Cite this article as: Jacob JM, West KL, Levine G, Sanchez S, Jensen BA (2016) Initial characterization of novel beaked whale morbillivirus in Hawaiian cetaceans. Dis Aquat Org 117:215-227. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02941

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