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Vet Microbiol. 2011 Mar 24;148(2-4):440-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2010.08.025. Epub 2010 Sep 8.

Isolation of culturable microorganisms from free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the southeastern United States.

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Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine & Coastal Sciences, University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29412, USA.


Reports of diseases in marine mammals are increasing worldwide, however our understanding of the microorganisms associated with marine mammals is still limited. In this study, we cultured bacteria and fungi isolated from the upper respiratory tract (blowhole), gastric fluid and anus of 180 wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from two estuarine locations along the southeastern Atlantic Coast of the United States. A total of 339 and 491 isolates from Charleston, SC (CHS) and Indian River Lagoon, FL (IRL) dolphins, respectively, were cultured from gastric (70 CHS/82 IRL), fecal (141 CHS/184 IRL), and blowhole (128 CHS/225 IRL) swabs on selective media used for routine clinical microorganisms of human concern. The most frequently cultured Gram-negative bacteria from all sample and study types were Plesiomonas shigelloides, Aeromonas hydrophila, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas fluorescens. Among the Gram-positive bacteria, Clostridium perfringens, Bacillus sp., and Staphylococcus Coag. Neg were the predominant organisms. For fungi, the most abundant species were Candida glabrata, budding yeasts, and Candida tropicalis. Of concern, the MRSA strain of Staphylococcus aureus was detected in the blowhole and gastric swabs from CHS dolphins. In general, a greater prevalence of bacteria and fungi (four-fold increase) were cultured from IRL than CHS animals. Together, these culture-dependent studies, coupled to on-going culture-independent approaches, should help establish a baseline of microorganisms associated with bottlenose dolphins and aid in the identification of organisms responsible for infectious diseases(s) in these animals.

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