DAO 96:187-194 (2011)  -  doi:10.3354/dao02387

Post-epizootic chronic dolphin morbillivirus infection in Mediterranean striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba

Sara Soto1,*, Ana Alba1, Llilianne Ganges1, Enric Vidal1, Juan Antonio Raga2, Ferrán Alegre3, Beatriz González3, Pascual Medina3, Irene Zorrilla4, Jorge Martínez5, Alberto Marco5, Mónica Pérez1, Blanca Pérez5, Ana Pérez de Vargas Mesas4, Rosa Martínez Valverde4, Mariano Domingo1,5

1CRESA (Centre de Recerca en Sanitat Animal), Campus Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), 08193 Bellaterra-Barcelona, Spain
2Institut Cavanilles de Biodiversitat i Biologia Evolutiva, Parc Científic, Universitat de València, Catedrático José Beltrán 2, 46980 Paterna (Valencia), Spain
3CRAM (Fundació per la Conservació y Recuperació d’Animals Marins), Carretera de la Platja 28−30, 08820 El Prat de Llobregat-Barcelona, Spain
4EGMASA-Centro de Análisis y Diagnóstico de la Fauna Silvestre-C.A.D., 29010 Málaga, Spain
5Departament de Sanitat i d’Anatomia Animals, Facultat de Veterinària, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), 08193 Bellaterra-Barcelona, Spain

ABSTRACT: Dolphin morbillivirus (DMV) has caused 2 epizootics with high mortality rates on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, in 1990 and 2006–07, mainly affecting striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba. Following the first epizootic unusual DMV infections affecting only the central nervous system of striped dolphins were found, with histological features similar to subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and old dog encephalitis, the chronic latent localised infections caused by defective forms of measles virus and canine distemper virus, respectively. Between 2008 and 2010, monitoring by microscopic and immunohistochemical (IHC) studies of 118 striped dolphins stranded along Catalonia, the Valencia Region and Andalusia showed similar localised DMV nervous system infections in 25.0, 28.6 and 27.4% of cases, respectively, with no significant differences among regions or sex. The body length of DMV-infected dolphins was statistically greater than that of non-infected dolphins (196.5 vs. 160.5 cm; p < 0.001). Molecular detection of DMV was performed by 2 different RT-PCR techniques amplifying a 429 bp fragment and a 78 bp fragment both within the phosphoprotein (P) gene. The 429 bp RT-PCR results contradicted the IHC-DMV results as only 3 of 6 dolphins with positive IHC-DMV had positive PCR results. All 6 cases were positive with the 78 bp RT-PCR. These findings contraindicate the use of the 429 bp RT-PCR protocol based on the P gene to detect this specific form of DMV. DMV localised nervous infection constitutes the most relevant single cause of stranding and death in Mediterranean striped ­dolphins in the years following a DMV epizootic, and it might even overwhelm the effects of the epizootic itself, at least in 2007.


KEY WORDS: Dolphin morbillivirus · Striped dolphin · Stenella coeruleoalba · Encephalitis · Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis · SSPE · Localised form · Mediterranean Sea


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Cite this article as: Soto S, Alba A, Ganges L, Vidal E and others (2011) Post-epizootic chronic dolphin morbillivirus infection in Mediterranean striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba. Dis Aquat Org 96:187-194

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