DAO prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03190

Occlusive mycotic tracheobronchitis and systemic Alphaherpesvirus coinfection in a free-living striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba in Italy

Carla Grattarola, Federica Giorda, Barbara Iulini, Alessandra Pautasso, Marco Ballardini, Simona Zoppi, Letizia Marsili, Simone Peletto, Loretta Masoero, Katia Varello, Fulvio Garibaldi, Frine E. Scaglione, Giovanni Di Guardo, Alessandro Dondo, Maria Goria, Laura Serracca, Walter Mignone, Cristina Casalone*

*Email: cristina.casalone@izsto.it

ABSTRACT: A juvenile female striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba live stranded on 4 March 2016 at Alassio, western Ligurian Sea Coast, Italy. The dolphin died shortly after stranding, and a complete post mortem examination was performed. Necropsy revealed severe tracheal occlusion and unilateral bronchial stenosis with luminal accumulation of abundant green-yellow mucous-gelatinous material. Histological features suggestive of tracheobronchial aspergillosis were observed. Cultures of lung tissue and tracheo-bronchial exudate isolated Aspergillus fumigatus, identified by a Microseq D2 LSUrDNA fungal sequencing kit. A pan-Herpesvirus-nested PCR assay on frozen samples obtained from multiple organs was positive. Phylogenetic analysis on the partial DNA polymerase gene revealed that the striped dolphin isolate was closely related to known cetacean Alphaherpesvirus sequences from the same host species. Attempted virus isolation was unsuccessful. The tissue levels of different persistent organic pollutants and the toxicological stress, evaluated using a theoretical model, showed a severely impaired immune response. This study reports the first case of occlusive mycotic tracheobronchitis in a free-living cetacean and the first molecular identification of an Alphaherpesvirus in a free-ranging striped dolphin stranded on the coast of Italy.