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Vet Pathol. 2007 Jan;44(1):88-92.

Escherichia coli septicemia associated with lack of maternally acquired immunity in a bottlenose dolphin calf.

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Department of Virology, Erasmus Medical Center, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Stillbirth and neonatal mortality are substantial problems in captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). The cause of these problems often is unknown. We report a case of Escherichia coli septicemia in a male 3-day-old bottlenose dolphin calf. Lesions included omphalitis, synovitis, and hepatic necrosis associated with the presence of Gram-negative bacilli. E. coli was isolated in pure culture from multiple organs. A serum gammaglobulin level of 1.5 g/L indicated a lack of maternally acquired immunity. The observed failure to nurse may have resulted from brain injury due to perinatal asphyxia. Evidence for perinatal asphyxia was the diffuse presence of a moderate amount of meconium in the lungs.

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