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Vet Parasitol. 2003 Oct 30;116(4):275-96.

Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum, Sarcocystis neurona, and Sarcocystis canis-like infections in marine mammals.

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United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350, USA.

Erratum in

  • Vet Parasitol. 2006 Feb 18;135(3-4):385.


Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum, Sarcocystis neurona, and S. canis are related protozoans that can cause mortality in many species of domestic and wild animals. Recently, T. gondii and S. neurona were recognized to cause encephalitis in marine mammals. As yet, there is no report of natural exposure of N. caninum in marine mammals. In the present study, antibodies to T. gondii and N. caninum were assayed in sera of several species of marine mammals. For T. gondii, sera were diluted 1:25, 1:50, and 1:500 and assayed in the T. gondii modified agglutination test (MAT). Antibodies (MAT > or =1:25) to T. gondii were found in 89 of 115 (77%) dead, and 18 of 30 (60%) apparently healthy sea otters (Enhydra lutris), 51 of 311 (16%) Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), 19 of 45 (42%) sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) [corrected] 5 of 32 (16%) ringed seals (Phoca hispida), 4 of 8 (50%) bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), 1 of 9 (11.1%) spotted seals (Phoca largha), 138 of 141 (98%) Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and 3 of 53 (6%) walruses (Odobenus rosmarus). For N. caninum, sera were diluted 1:40, 1:80, 1:160, and 1:320 and examined with the Neospora agglutination test (NAT) using mouse-derived tachyzoites. NAT antibodies were found in 3 of 53 (6%) walruses, 28 of 145 (19%) sea otters, 11 of 311 (3.5%) harbor seals, 1 of 27 (3.7%) sea lions, 4 of 32 (12.5%) ringed seals, 1 of 8 (12.5%) bearded seals, and 43 of 47 (91%) bottlenose dolphins. To our knowledge, this is the first report of N. caninum antibodies in any marine mammal, and the first report of T. gondii antibodies in walruses and in ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon seals. Current information on T. gondii-like and Sarcocystis-like infections in marine mammals is reviewed. New cases of clinical S. canis and T. gondii infections are also reported in sea lions, and T. gondii infection in an Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus).

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