Dolphin Whale Porpoise

Vet Res. 2008 Nov-Dec;39(6):59. Epub 2008 Aug 23.

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

Harms CA, Maggi RG, Breitschwerdt EB, Clemons-Chevis CL, Solangi M, Rotstein DS, Fair PA, Hansen LJ, Hohn AA,Lovewell GN, McLellan WA, Pabst DA, Rowles TK, Schwacke LH, Townsend FI, Wells RS.


Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, Environmental Medicine Consortium, North Carolina State University, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557, USA.


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.

PMID: 18721502 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] Free full text