Klebsiella pneumoniae-Associated Meningitis and Septicemia in a Neonatal Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
IAAAM 2016
Forrest M. Gomez1*; Shannon M. Wallace2; Lara S. Garman1; Jenny M. Meegan1; Cynthia R. Smith1; Eric D. Jensen2
1National Marine Mammal Foundation, San Diego, CA, USA; 2U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, San Diego, CA, USA


The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program formalized its dolphin breeding project in 1997 and since then has established a successful approach to breeding and neonatal management.1 This accomplishment is in part due to a neonatal health program which includes early physical exams, blood collection and administration of colostrum and antimicrobials when indicated.1 In September 2015, a male calf was born to a nulliparous 14-year-old bottlenose dolphin following a normal, closely monitored pregnancy and parturition.2 Nursing was observed at 10 hours postpartum and on day 13 a 2 cm dermal facial lesion was noted and observed regularly. Despite daily clinical and behavioral monitoring showing expected results for a healthy dam/calf pair, the neonate died acutely at eighteen days of age.3 In addition to an external non-communicating 5 mm cutaneous umbilical defect, internal lesions included diffusely dark red, heavy lungs and severe congestion/hyperemia of cerebral vessels. Cytology of cerebrospinal fluid showed intracellular bacilli and histopathology revealed a severe pyogranulomatous meningitis of the cervical spinal cord. Blood and CSF cultured Klebsiella pneumoniae which was reconfirmed with PCR. Post-birth environmental exposure to K. pneumoniae is more likely than intrauterine infection due to the calf's age at death, possible portals for infection, a healthy dam, and water quality changes associated with heavy rains.4 The lack of clinical precursors in this case is consistent with neonatal meningitis in other species, where signs can be vague or nonexistent.5 To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of Klebsiella meningitis in a neonatal bottlenose dolphin.


We would like to thank our colleagues at the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program and the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Special thanks to Risa Daniels, Celeste Parry, and Kevin Carlin for their help with diagnostic sampling and database analysis; Dr. Molly Martony for her help with daily calf monitoring and analysis; and to Dr. Sam Ridgway for his expertise and guidance. We would also like to thank Elaine Allen and all of the NMMF trainers for their endless devotion to the care of the Navy's dams and calves.

* Presenting author

Literature Cited

1.  Venn-Watson SK, Jensen ED, Ridgway SH. Evaluation of population health among bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) at the United States Navy Marine Mammal Program. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2011;238(3):356–360.

2.  Deming AC, Smith CR, Meegan JM, Jensen ED, Venn-Watson S. Hematological and plasma biochemical trends by trimester in healthy pregnant bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). In: IAAAM 46th Annual Conference Proceedings; Chicago, IL.

3.  Sweeney JC, Stone R, Campbell M, McBain J, St. Leger J, Xitco M, Jensen E, Ridgway S. Comparative survivability of Tursiops neonates from three U.S. institutions for the decades 1990–1999 and 2000–2009. Aquatic Mammals. 2010;36(3):248–261.

4.  Heath P, Nik Y, Baker C. Neonatal meningitis. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2003;88(3):173–F178.

5.  Sáez-Llorens X, McCracken GH. Bacterial meningitis in children. The Lancet. 2003;361(9375):2139–2148.


Speaker Information
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Forrest M. Gomez, DVM
National Marine Mammal Foundation
San Diego, CA, USA

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