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Clin Infect Dis. 1998 Nov;27(5):1168-70.

Isolation of Mycoplasma species from a patient with seal finger.

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  • 1Infectious Diseases Service, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.


The etiologic agent of seal finger (speck finger) is unknown. Seal finger occurs after a seal bite, and the symptoms include acute pain, swelling, discharge, and, in some cases, there is joint involvement. The discovery of Mycoplasma species in epidemics of seal disease prompted attempts to link seal finger to mycoplasma. Mycoplasma species were isolated in cultures of a specimen from the finger of an aquarium trainer who was bitten by a seal and of a specimen from the front teeth of the biting seal. The two Mycoplasma isolates were identical biochemically; they were serum-dependent and hydrolyzed arginine. The isolates were susceptible to tetracycline but resistant to erythromycin. By growth inhibition and immunofluorescent antibody tests, both strains were identified as Mycoplasma phocacerebrale, a mycoplasma isolated in an epidemic of seal disease occurring in the Baltic Sea. The patient's infection was treated successfully with tetracycline. To our knowledge, this is the first case in which a mycoplasma has been associated with seal finger.

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