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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 145:173-184 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03609

Systemic Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae in seven free-ranging delphinids stranded in England and Wales

Mary Elizabeth Ceccolini1,2,5,*, Mark Wessels3, Shaheed Karl Macgregor1, Robert Deaville4, Matthew Perkins4, Paul D. Jepson4, Shinto Kunjamma John4, Amanda Guthrie1

1Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, Outer Circle, London NW1 4RY, UK
2Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield AL9 7TA, UK
3Finn Pathologists, Harleston IP20 9EB, UK
4Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London NW1 4RY, UK
5Present address: Sedgwick County Zoo, 5555 Zoo Blvd., Wichita, KS 67212, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Microbiology records for 1127 cetaceans stranded on English and Welsh beaches and examined at the Institute of Zoology between 1990 and 2019 were reviewed to identify cases of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, an uncommon but potentially fatal zoonotic pathogen. Once cases were identified, prevalence was calculated, corresponding postmortem reports were reviewed, common gross and histopathological findings were identified, and antibiotic susceptibilities were determined. Overall prevalence for E. rhusiopathiae was 0.62% (7/1127; 95% CI: 0.30-1.28%). It was isolated from 3 bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus, 3 harbor porpoises Phocoena phocoena, and 1 short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis, with a prevalence of 21.4% (3/14; 95% CI: 7.6-47.9%), 0.39% (3/779; 95% CI: 0.13-1.13%), and 0.47% (1/212; 95% CI: 0.08-2.62%) for each species, respectively. E. rhusiopathiae resulted in septicemia in all cases from which it was isolated. Gross necropsy findings included pulmonary edema (5/7), hemorrhage (5/7) and/or congestion of various organs (4/7), and serosanguineous effusion (3/7; pericardial: 3/7, pleural: 2/6, abdominal: 2/6). Congestion (5/5), bacterial emboli (4/5), and hemorrhage (4/5) were commonly observed on histopathology, and acute renal tubular injury (2/5) and pulmonary edema (2/5) were occasionally observed. Routine bacterial cultures were vital in identifying E. rhusiopathiae, since gross lesions were often subtle and nonspecific. The liver, kidney, and brain were key organs from which E. rhusiopathiae was consistently isolated. Antibiotic resistance was uncommon and was only observed for amikacin and trimethoprim sulfonamide. Penicillins were consistently effective, along with fluoroquinolones, macrolides, clindamycin, cephalexin, and oxytetracycline.


KEY WORDS: Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae · Zoonosis · Delphinid · Septicemia · Prevalence · Antibiotic susceptibilities


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Cite this article as: Ceccolini ME, Wessels M, Macgregor SK, Deaville R and others (2021) Systemic Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae in seven free-ranging delphinids stranded in England and Wales. Dis Aquat Org 145:173-184. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03609

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