G. Lacave1, DVM; L. Schlater2, DVM, MS; P. Fedorka-Cray2,3; E. Cox4, DVM, PhD; B. Goddeeris4, DVM, PhD
1Marine Mammal Veterinary Services, Betferkerklaan, Brugge, Belgium; 2USDA-APHIS, CVB-L, Ames, IA, USA; 3University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA; 4Laboratorium of Immunology, Veterinary Faculty, Merelbeke, Belgium
Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae is a well-known cause of disease and mortality in dolphins. The disease either occurs in a hyperacute form, leading to mortality before clinical signs are observed; or in a subacute form, characterized by rhomboid skin lesions that can be treated with penicillin derivatives. Prevention of the disease could possibly be achieved by vaccinating the dolphins. At this moment, commercially available vaccines for swine, containing inactivated serotype 2 strains, are used for vaccination of dolphins. It is, however, unknown whether these vaccines can induce protective immunity against E. rhusiopathiae strains isolated from cetaceans. Cross-protection between several different serotypes has been demonstrated, but not between all of them.
With the intent of trying to identify serotypes that caused the disease in cetaceans and assessing the efficacy of the swine vaccines used on cetaceans, a survey investigating the incidence of erysipelas in marine mammals in the last 10 years has been sent out worldwide to marine mammal facilities and has been posted on MARMAM. To date, 15 different E. rhusiopathiae isolates from a range of cetacean species have been obtained as a consequence of this survey. Six of the 15 isolates have already been serotyped and the remaining nine are being typed at this time.