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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 154:131-139 (2023)  -  DOI:

Alphaherpesvirus infection in a free-ranging narwhal Monodon monoceros from Arctic Canada

Ole Nielsen1,*, Thaís C. S. Rodrigues2, Marianne Marcoux1, Karine Béland3, Kuttichantran Subramaniam2, Stéphane Lair3, Nigel E. Hussey4, Thomas B. Waltzek2,5

1Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 501 University Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N6, Canada
2Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, 2187 Mowry Road, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA
3Centre québécois sur la santé des animaux sauvages / Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, Faculté de médecine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, 3200 Sicotte Street, St. Hyacinthe, Québec J2S 8H5, Canada
4Department of Integrative Biology, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Ave., Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada
5Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, 1940 Olympia Avenue, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: We report the detection of an alphaherpesvirus infecting an adult female narwhal Monodon monoceros captured live during a tagging project in Tremblay Sound, Nunavut, Canada, in August 2018. The individual had 2 open wounds on the dorsum but appeared in good overall health. A blowhole swab was collected, and subsequent virus isolation was performed using a beluga whale primary cell line. Non-syncytial cytopathic effects were seen, in contrast to syncytial cytopathic effects described for monodontid alphaherpesvirus 1 (MoAHV1) isolates previously recovered from beluga whales Delphinapterus leucas from Alaska, USA, and the Northwest Territories, Canada. Next-generation sequencing was performed on a sequencing library generated from the DNA of the viral isolate and the analysis of the assembled contigs permitted the recovery of 6 genes, conserved in all members of the family Orthoherpesviridae, for downstream genetic and phylogenetic analyses. BLASTN (basic local alignment search tool, searching nucleotide databases using a nucleotide query) analyses of the narwhal herpesvirus conserved genes showed the highest nucleotide identities to MoAHV1, ranging between 88.5 and 96.8%. A maximum likelihood phylogenetic analysis based on concatenation of the 6 conserved herpesviruses amino acid alignments revealed the narwhal herpesvirus (NHV) to be the closest relative to MoAHV1, forming a clade within the subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae, genus Varicellovirus. NHV is the first alphaherpesvirus characterized from a narwhal and represents a new viral species, which we propose to be known as Varicellovirus monodontidalpha2. Further research is needed to determine the prevalence and potential clinical impacts of this alphaherpesvirus infection in narwhals.

KEY WORDS: Alphaherpesvirinae · Herpesviridae · Monodontid alphaherpesvirus 1· MoAHV1 · Narwhal herpesvirus · Next-generation sequencing · Virus isolation

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Cite this article as: Nielsen O, Rodrigues TCS, Marcoux M, Béland K and others (2023) Alphaherpesvirus infection in a free-ranging narwhal Monodon monoceros from Arctic Canada. Dis Aquat Org 154:131-139.

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