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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 139:161-174 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03478

Marine mammals are natural hosts of Oceanivirga salmonicida, a bacterial pathogen of Atlantic salmon

Roy Palmer1,*, Gerard T. A. Fleming1,2, Stefanie Glaeser3, Torsten Semmler4, Agnes Flamm5, Christa Ewers6, Peter Kämpfer3, Olga Budich3, Simon Berrow7,8, Joanne O’Brien7,8, Ursula Siebert9, Evelyn Collins10, Margaret Ruttledge11, Tobias Eisenberg5

1Discipline of Microbiology, School of Natural Sciences, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway H91TK33, Ireland
2Ryan Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway H91TK33, Ireland
3Institut für Angewandte Mikrobiologie, Justus-Liebig-Universität, 35392 Giessen, Germany
4Microbial Genomics, Robert Koch Institute, 13353 Berlin, Germany
5 Department of Veterinary Medicine, Hessian State Laboratory, 35392 Giessen, Germany
6Institut für Hygiene und Infektionskrankheiten der Tiere, Justus-Liebig-Universität, 35392 Giessen, Germany
7Department of Natural Sciences, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway H91T8NW, Ireland
8Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Kilrush V15E762, Ireland
9Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research, University of Veterinary Medicine, 30173 Hannover, Germany
10Fish Health Unit, Marine Institute, Oranmore H91R673, Ireland
11Enterprise Ireland, Mervue Business Park, Galway H91XE9N, Ireland
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: During 1992 and 1993, a bacterial disease occurred in a seawater Atlantic salmon Salmo salar farm, causing serious mortalities. The causative agent was subsequently named as Oceanivirga salmonicida, a member of the Leptotrichiaceae. Searches of 16S rRNA gene sequence databases have shown sequence similarities between O. salmonicida and uncultured bacterial clones from the digestive tracts of marine mammals. In the current study, oral samples were taken from stranded dolphins (common dolphin Delphinus delphis, striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba) and healthy harbour seals Phoca vitulina. A bacterium with growth characteristics consistent with O. salmonicida was isolated from a common dolphin. The isolate was confirmed as O. salmonicida, by comparisons to the type strain, using 16S rRNA gene, gyrB, groEL, and recA sequence analyses, average nucleotide identity analysis, and MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Metagenomic analysis indicated that the genus Oceanivirga represented a significant component of the oral bacterial microbiomes of the dolphins and seals. However, sequences consistent with O. salmonicida were only found in the dolphin samples. Analyses of marine mammal microbiome studies in the NCBI databases showed sequences consistent with O. salmonicida from the common dolphin, striped dolphin, bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus, humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae, and harbour seal. Sequences from marine environmental studies in the NCBI databases showed no sequences consistent with O. salmonicida. The findings suggest that several species of marine mammals are natural hosts of O. salmonicida.


KEY WORDS: Oceanivirga salmonicida · Aquaculture · Bacterial disease · Marine mammal · Epidemiology


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Cite this article as: Palmer R, Fleming GTA, Glaeser S, Semmler T and others (2020) Marine mammals are natural hosts of Oceanivirga salmonicida, a bacterial pathogen of Atlantic salmon. Dis Aquat Org 139:161-174. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03478

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