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Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 5;9(1):9792. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-46096-w.

Circulation of a novel strain of dolphin morbillivirus (DMV) in stranded cetaceans in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Sicilia "A. Mirri", Palermo, 90129, Italy.
Fundación Oceanografic de la Comunitat Valenciana, Valencia, 46013, Spain.
VISAVET-Animal Health Department, Veterinary School, Complutense University, Madrid, 28040, Spain.
Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Sicilia "A. Mirri", Palermo, 90129, Italy.


Dolphin morbillivirus (DMV) has been responsible for several outbreaks of systemic infection and has resulted in cetacean strandings in the Mediterranean. In August-October 2016, seven striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) stranded on the Sicilian coastline (Italy) tested positive for DMV. Tissue samples from brain, lung, pulmonary lymph nodes, heart, spleen, liver, stomach, intestine, kidneys and urinary bladder, as well as blowhole swabs, were collected during necropsy for molecular diagnostics and pathology studies. Extracted tissue RNA was screened for DMV by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Some tissues exhibited microscopic lesions that were consistent with DMV infection on histopathological and immunohistochemical grounds. Conventional reverse transcription PCR to target partial nucleoprotein and phosphoprotein genes yielded sequences used to genetically characterize the associated DMV strain. DMV RNA was detected by both PCR assays in all tested tissues of the seven dolphins, which suggests systemic infections, but was absent from another dolphin stranded on the Sicilian coastline during the same period. The partial phosphoprotein and nucleoprotein gene sequences from the positive dolphins were 99.7% and 99.5% identical, respectively, to the DMV sequences recently observed in cetaceans stranded on the Spanish Mediterranean. Our study suggests that this DMV strain is circulating in the Mediterranean.

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