DAO 123:13-18 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03085

Hepatitis E virus in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus

María Caridad Montalvo Villalba1,*, Danilo Cruz Martínez2, Imran Ahmad3, Licel A. Rodriguez Lay1, Marite Bello Corredor1, Celia Guevara March2, Liena Sánchez Martínez2, Laima Sánchez Martínez-Campo2, Shahid Jameel3

1Institute of Tropical Medicine Pedro Kouri, Autopista Novía del Mediodía, Km. 6 1/2, La Lisa, ZC 17 100, Havana, Cuba
2National Aquarium Havana, Calle 3ra y 62 Miramar, Playa, Havana, ZC 11 300, Cuba
3International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi - 110067, India
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infects several animal species that act as zoonotic reservoirs for viral transmission. Solid and liquid residues from infected animals could lead to HEV contamination of food and surface waters. Evidence of human HEV infection through ingestion of seafood (shellfish, mussels) has been reported. Dolphins generally feed on fish and squid but are able to adapt to an environment and consume whatever prey is available. Clinical signs of infected dolphins include lethargy, inappetence, behavioral aberrations and increased serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT). The dolphins examined in this study were maintained at the National Aquarium, Havana, Cuba. A total of 31 dolphins were evaluated for HEV markers. Sera were collected and screened for total immunoglobin (Ig) anti-HEV. Sera and liver homogenate were tested for HEV RNA by nested RT-PCR using primers targeting the open reading frame 1. Phylogenetic analysis was performed using partial nucleotide sequences at the amplified RNA-dependent RNA polymerase gene. Total anti-HEV Ig was detected in 32.2% (10 of 31), and 16.1% (5 of 31) of these dolphins were positive by both serology and HEV RNA testing. Nucleotide sequence analyses revealed that HEV strains identified in dolphins were genotype 3. This virus may represent an environmental contamination of food or wastewater as a source of HEV exposure and infection. Our findings provide evidence that HEV is associated with liver disorders in cetaceans and that it is advisable to screen for exposure of this virus in captive dolphins, particularly animals with elevated serum ALT or compromised liver function test results of undetermined cause.


KEY WORDS: Viral diseases · Hepatitis E virus · Bottlenose dolphins · Zoonotic · Genotype


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Cite this article as: Montalvo Villalba MC, Cruz Martínez D, Ahmad I, Rodriguez Lay LA and others (2017) Hepatitis E virus in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus. Dis Aquat Org 123:13-18. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03085

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