From January to March 2010, an outbreak of gastrointestinal disease and oral lesions lasting 1 to 27 days affected California sea lions at the Navy Marine Mammal Program. Concurrently, bottlenose dolphins, human trainers, and dogs of trainers demonstrated similar signs. Although the cause of this epizootic had not been found, in 2011 the lessons learned about diagnostics, quarantine and public health were presented at IAAAM. The case was reopened in 2013 as part of a biosurveillance of ocean-borne pathogens of human health interest postdoctoral project. As part of the biosurveillance project, a Working Group of experts was established, including over 20 members from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic, Stanford University, Columbia University, Naval Health Research Center, Blood Systems Research, and the University of Florida. Sets of eight to ten early-onset samples from the epizootic were tested for Giardia, Campylobacter sp., Salmonella sp., Lawsonia intracellularis, Clostridium toxins A & B, Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin, Cryptosporidium, Rotavirus, canine Parvovirus and Coronavirus via PCRs. Additionally, more advanced and costly platforms like 454 Pyrosequencing, Illumina and Ion Torrent were used in the investigation. Although the price of these molecular techniques is lowering, they are still costly. We were able to use our Working Group resources and experience and stay below budget. While the cause of the epizootic is still unknown, the use of multi-institutional collaborations of experts has been an effective and productive means to address larger scale questions with minimal resources.
The authors would like to thank the staff at the Navy Marine Mammal Program for their assistance in gathering data and samples. We would also like to thank the advisors and experts involved in this project for their willingness to use their own resources and providing invaluable feedback to aid on this investigation. This research is being performed while Dr. Rebecca Rivera holds a National Research Council Research Postdoctoral Associateship Award at the Navy Marine Mammal Program.
* Presenting author