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Vet Parasitol. 2013 Feb 18;192(1-3):67-74. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2012.11.001. Epub 2012 Nov 12.

An atypical genotype of Toxoplasma gondii as a cause of mortality in Hector's dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori).

Author information

1
Pathobiology Group, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, PN4222, New Zealand. w.d.roe@massey.ac.nz

Abstract

Hector's dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) are a small endangered coastal species that are endemic to New Zealand. Anthropogenic factors, particularly accidental capture in fishing nets, are believed to be the biggest threat to survival of this species. The role of infectious disease as a cause of mortality has not previously been well investigated. This study investigates Toxoplasma gondii infection in Hector's dolphins, finding that 7 of 28 (25%) dolphins examined died due to disseminated toxoplasmosis, including 2 of 3 Maui's dolphins, a critically endangered sub-species. A further 10 dolphins had one or more tissues that were positive for the presence of T. gondii DNA using PCR. Genotyping revealed that 7 of 8 successfully amplified isolates were an atypical Type II genotype. Fatal cases had necrotising and haemorrhagic lesions in the lung (n=7), lymph nodes (n=6), liver (n=4) and adrenals (n=3). Tachyzoites and tissue cysts were present in other organs including the brain (n=5), heart (n=1), stomach (n=1) and uterus (n=1) with minimal associated inflammatory response. One dolphin had a marked suppurative metritis in the presence of numerous intra-epithelial tachyzoites. No dolphins had underlying morbillivirus infection. This study provides the first evidence that infectious agents could be important in the population decline of this species, and highlights the need for further research into the route of entry of T. gondii organisms into the marine environment worldwide.

PMID:
23207018
DOI:
10.1016/j.vetpar.2012.11.001
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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