DAO 38:53-65 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/dao038053

A review of virus infections of cetaceans and the potential impact of morbilliviruses, poxviruses and papillomaviruses on host population dynamics

Marie-Françoise Van Bressem1,2,*, Koen Van Waerebeek1, Juan Antonio Raga3

1Peruvian Centre for Cetacean Research (CEPEC), Jorge Chávez 302, Pucusana, Lima 20, Peru
2Department of Vaccinology-Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, Sart Tilman, 4000 Liège, Belgium
3Department of Animal Biology & Cavanilles Research Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, Dr Moliner 50, 46100 Burjasot, Spain

ABSTRACT: Viruses belonging to 9 families have been detected in cetaceans. We critically review the clinical features, pathology and epidemiology of the diseases they cause. Cetacean morbillivirus (family Paramyxoviridae) induces a serious disease with a high mortality rate and persists in several populations. It may have long-term effects on the dynamics of cetacean populations either as enzootic infection or recurrent epizootics. The latter presumably have the more profound impact due to removal of sexually mature individuals. Members of the family Poxviridae infect several species of odontocetes, resulting in ring and tattoo skin lesions. Although poxviruses apparently do not induce a high mortality, circumstancial evidence suggests they may be lethal in young animals lacking protective immunity, and thus may negatively affect net recruitment. Papillomaviruses (family Papovaviridae) cause genital warts in at least 3 species of cetaceans. In 10% of male Burmeister's porpoises Phocoena spinipinnis from Peru, lesions were sufficiently severe to at least hamper, if not impede, copulation. Members of the families Herpesviridae, Orthomyxoviridae and Rhabdoviridae were demonstrated in cetaceans suffering serious illnesses, but with the exception of a 'porpoise herpesvirus' their causative role is still tentative. Herpes-like viruses and caliciviruses (Caliciviridae) give rise to cutaneous diseases in Monodontidae and Delphinidae. Antibodies to several serotypes of caliciviruses were found in odontocetes and mysticetes. An unrecognized Hepadnaviridae was detected by serology in a captive Pacific white-sided dolphin Lagenorhynchus obliquidens with chronic persistent hepatitis. Adenoviruses (Adenoviridae) were isolated from the intestinal tracts of mysticeti and a beluga Delphinapterus leucas but were not associated with any pathologies. We discuss the potential impact of Paramyxoviridae, Poxviridae and Papovaviridae on the dynamics of several odontocete populations.


KEY WORDS: Paramyxoviridae · Poxviridae · Papovaviridae · Herpesviridae · Orthomyxoviridae · Rhabdoviridae · Caliciviridae · Hepadnaviridae · Adenoviridae · Cetaceans · Viral diseases


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