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Vet Rec. 2007 Mar 3;160(9):297-300.

Fatal enterocolitis in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) caused by infection with Eimeria phocae.

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Dutch Wildlife Health Centre, Department of Virology, Erasmus Medical Centre, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Coccidiosis due to Eimeria phocae infection has been described in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) from the western Atlantic population, but not in any detail in seals from the eastern Atlantic population. This paper describes fatal enterocolitis due to E phocae infection in three juvenile harbour seals at a rehabilitation centre in the Netherlands in July 2003. The clinical signs were lethargy, bloody faeces, and intermittent convulsions and muscle tremors just before they died; the nervous signs resembled those of nervous coccidiosis in calves. The main pathological finding was severe, diffuse, haemorrhagic enterocolitis; there were diffuse inflammatory changes in the lamina propria of the jejunal, ileal, caecal and colonic mucosa that were associated with the presence of the sexual stages and oocysts of a coccidian species identified as E phocae. A retrospective microscopical examination of intestinal tissues from 113 harbour seals that had died between 1999 and 2004 revealed one seal that was positive for E phocae.

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