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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 133:47-56 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03328

Phylogenomic insights to the origin and spread of phocine distemper virus in European harbour seals in 1988 and 2002

Iben Stokholm1,*, Tero Härkönen2, Karin C. Harding3, Ursula Siebert4, Kristina Lehnert4, Rune Dietz5, Jonas Teilmann5, Anders Galatius5, Linnea Worsøe Havmøller5, Emma L. Carroll6, Ailsa Hall6,7, Morten Tange Olsen1,*

1Section for Evolutionary Genomics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, 1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark
2Department of Environmental Research and Monitoring, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50007, 10405 Stockholm, Sweden
3Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, PO Box 463, 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden
4Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, 25761 Büsum, Germany
5Marine Mammal Research, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
6Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 8LB, UK
7School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The 1988 and 2002 phocine distemper virus (PDV) outbreaks in European harbour seals Phoca vitulina are among the largest mass mortality events recorded in marine mammals. Despite its large impact on harbour seal population numbers, and 3 decades of studies, many questions regarding the spread and temporal origin of PDV remain unanswered. Here, we sequenced and analysed 7123 bp of the PDV genome, including the coding and non-coding regions of the entire P, M, F and H genes in tissues from 44 harbour seals to shed new light on the origin and spread of PDV in 1988 and 2002. The phylogenetic analyses trace the origin of the PDV strain causing the 1988 outbreak to between June 1987 and April 1988, while the origin of the strain causing the 2002 outbreak can be traced back to between July 2001 and April 2002. The analyses further point to several independent introductions of PDV in 1988, possibly linked to a southward mass immigration of harp seals in the winter and spring of 1987-1988. The vector for the 2002 outbreak is unknown, but the epidemiological analyses suggest the subsequent spread of PDV from the epicentre in the Kattegat, Denmark, to haul-out sites in the North Sea through several independent introductions.


KEY WORDS: Morbillivirus · Epidemic · Viral phylogeny · Virus evolution · Wildlife pathogen


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Cite this article as: Stokholm I, Härkönen T, Harding KC, Siebert U and others (2019) Phylogenomic insights to the origin and spread of phocine distemper virus in European harbour seals in 1988 and 2002. Dis Aquat Org 133:47-56. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03328

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