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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 97:103-112 (2011)  -  DOI:

Clinicoimmunopathologic findings in Atlantic bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus with positive cetacean morbillivirus antibody titers

Gregory D. Bossart1,2,*, Tracy A. Romano3, Margie M. Peden-Adams4, Adam Schaefer2, Stephen McCulloch2, Juli D. Goldstein2, Charles D. Rice5, Jeremiah T. Saliki6, Patricia A. Fair7, John S. Reif8

1Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia 30313, USA
2Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, Ft. Pierce, Florida 34946, USA
3The Mystic Aquarium, a division of Sea Research Foundation, Mystic, Connecticut 06355, USA
4Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154, USA
5Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate Program in Environmental Toxicology, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 29634, USA
6Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA
7National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
8Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA

ABSTRACT: Sera from free-ranging Atlantic bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus inhabiting the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida were tested for antibodies to cetacean morbilliviruses from 2003 to 2007 as part of a multidisciplinary study of individual and population health. A suite of clinico­immunopathologic variables were evaluated in morbillivirus-seropositive dolphins (n = 14) and seronegative healthy dolphins (n = 49). Several important differences were found. Serum alkaline phosphatase, creatine phosphokinase, chloride, albumin and albumin/globulin ratios were significantly lower in seropositive dolphins. Innate immunity appeared to be upregulated with significant increases in lysozyme concentration and marginally significant increases in monocytic phagocytosis. Adaptive immunity was also impacted in dolphins with positive morbillivirus antibody titers. Mitogen-induced T lymphocyte proliferation responses were significantly reduced in dolphins with positive morbillivirus antibody titers, and marginally significant decreases were found for absolute numbers of CD4+ lymphocytes. The findings suggest impairment of cell-mediated adaptive immunity, similar to the immunologic pattern reported with acute morbillivirus infection in other species. In contrast, dolphins with positive morbillivirus antibody titers appeared to have at least a partially upregulated humoral immune response with significantly higher levels of gamma globulins than healthy dolphins, which may represent an antibody response to morbillivirus infection or other pathogens. These data suggest that subclinical dolphin morbillivirus infection in IRL dolphins may produce clinicoimmunopathologic perturbations that impact overall health.

KEY WORDS: Bottlenose dolphin · Viral disease · Cetacean morbillivirus · Seroepidemiology · Clinical pathology · Immunology

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Cite this article as: Bossart GD, Romano TA, Peden Adams MM, Schaefer A and others (2011) Clinicoimmunopathologic findings in Atlantic bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus with positive cetacean morbillivirus antibody titers. Dis Aquat Org 97:103-112.

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