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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2000 Nov;66(11):4751-7.

Isolation and characterization of a Helicobacter sp. from the gastric mucosa of dolphins, Lagenorhynchus acutus and Delphinus delphis.

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  • 1Division of Comparative Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Gastric ulcerations in dolphins have been reported for decades. Some of these lesions were associated with parasitic infections. However, cases of nonparasitic gastric ulcers with no clearly defined etiology also have been reported in wild and captive dolphins. Considerable speculation exists as to whether dolphins have Helicobacter-associated gastritis and peptic ulcer disease. The stomachs of seven stranded Atlantic white-sided dolphins, Lagenorhynchus acutus, and 1 common dolphin, Delphinus delphis, were assessed for the presence of Helicobacter species. Novel Helicobacter species were identified by culture in the gastric mucosa of two of the eight dolphins studied and by PCR in seven of the eight dolphins. The gram-negative organisms were urease, catalase, and oxidase positive. Spiral to fusiform bacteria were detected in gastric mucosa by Warthin Starry staining. Histopathology revealed mild to moderate diffuse lymphoplasmacytic gastritis within the superficial mucosa of the main stomach. The pyloric stomach was less inflamed, and bacteria did not extend deep into the glands. The lesions parallel those observed in Helicobacter pylori-infected humans. Bacteria from two dolphins classified by 16S rRNA analysis clustered with gastric helicobacters and represent a novel Helicobacter sp. most closely related to H. pylori. These findings suggest that a novel Helicobacter sp. may play a role in the etiopathogenesis of gastritis and gastric ulcers in dolphins. To our knowledge this represents the first isolation and characterization of a novel Helicobacter sp. from a marine mammal and emphasizes the wide host distribution and pathogenic potential of this increasingly important genus.

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