Free Access
Vet. Res.
Volume 39, Number 6, November-December 2008
Number of page(s) 8
Published online 23 August 2008
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2008) 39:59
How to cite this article: Vet. Res. (2008) 39:59
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2008036

Bartonella species detection in captive, stranded and free-ranging cetaceans

Craig A. Harms1, Ricardo G. Maggi2, Edward B. Breitschwerdt2, Connie L. Clemons-Chevis3, Mobashir Solangi3, David S. Rotstein4, Patricia A. Fair5, Larry J. Hansen6, Aleta A. Hohn6, Gretchen N. Lovewell6, William A. McLellan7, D. Ann Pabst7, Teri K. Rowles8, Lori H. Schwacke9, Forrest I. Townsend10 and Randall S. Wells11

1  Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, Environmental Medicine Consortium, and Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, 303 College Circle, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557, USA
2  Intracellular Pathogens Research Laboratory, Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, and Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, 4700 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606, USA
3  Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, 10801 Dolphin Lane, Gulfport, Mississippi 39503, USA
4  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Marine Animal Health, Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, 2407 River Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA
5  National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 219 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
6  National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
7  Biology and Marine Biology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 South College Road, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, USA
8  National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, USA
9  Hollings Marine Laboratory, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 331 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
10  Bayside Hospital for Animals, 251 Northeast Racetrack Road, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 34236, USA
11  Chicago Zoological Society, c/o Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA

Received 6 April 2008; accepted 21 August 2008; published online 23 August 2008

Abstract - We present prevalence of Bartonella spp. for multiple cohorts of wild and captive cetaceans. One hundred and six cetaceans including 86 bottlenose dolphins (71 free-ranging, 14 captive in a facility with a dolphin experiencing debility of unknown origin, 1 stranded), 11 striped dolphins, 4 harbor porpoises, 3 Risso's dolphins, 1 dwarf sperm whale and 1 pygmy sperm whale (all stranded) were sampled. Whole blood (n = 95 live animals) and tissues (n = 15 freshly dead animals) were screened by PCR (n = 106 animals), PCR of enrichment cultures (n = 50 animals), and subcultures (n = 50 animals). Bartonella spp. were detected from 17 cetaceans, including 12 by direct extraction PCR of blood or tissues, 6 by PCR of enrichment cultures, and 4 by subculture isolation. Bartonella spp. were more commonly detected from the captive (6/14, 43%) than from free-ranging (2/71, 2.8%) bottlenose dolphins, and were commonly detected from the stranded animals (9/21, 43%; 3/11 striped dolphins, 3/4 harbor porpoises, 2/3 Risso's dolphins, 1/1 pygmy sperm whale, 0/1 dwarf sperm whale, 0/1 bottlenose dolphin). Sequencing identified a Bartonella spp. most similar to B. henselae San Antonio 2 in eight cases (4 bottlenose dolphins, 2 striped dolphins, 2 harbor porpoises), B. henselae Houston 1 in three cases (2 Risso's dolphins, 1 harbor porpoise), and untyped in six cases (4 bottlenose dolphins, 1 striped dolphin, 1 pygmy sperm whale). Although disease causation has not been established, Bartonella species were detected more commonly from cetaceans that were overtly debilitated or were cohabiting in captivity with a debilitated animal than from free-ranging animals. The detection of Bartonella spp. from cetaceans may be of pathophysiological concern.

Key words: Bartonella / cetacean / dolphin / porpoise

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008