Two Novel Alpha Herpes Viruses Associated with Fatal Disseminated Infections in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2000

Terrell W. Blanchard1, DVM, DACVP; Nancy T. Santiago1, DVM; Thomas P. Lipscomb1, DVM, DACVP; Richard L. Garber2, PhD; Wayne E. McFee3, MS; Susan Knowles4

1Department of Veterinary Pathology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC, USA; 2PathoGenesis Corporation, Seattle, WA, USA; 3NOAA, National Ocean Service, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, Charleston, SC, USA; 4Department of Natural Resources, Cooperative Oxford Laboratory, Oxford, MD, USA


Two immature female bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were found stranded on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Necropsy and histopathologic examination of both dolphins demonstrated acute necrotizing lesions in multiple organ systems. Commonly seen in these lesions were cells with enlarged nuclei that contained single 4–6 µm diameter homogeneous eosinophilic inclusion bodies which were often surrounded by a clear halo. Ultrastructural examination revealed that intranuclear inclusions contained 90–110 nm diameter viral particles with electron-dense cores and hexagonal profiles. Rarely, viral particles were present in the cytoplasm and were surrounded by variably electron-dense envelopes; enveloped virions were 140 nm in diameter. Polymerase chain reactions targeting the DNA polymerase and terminase genes of herpesviruses were carried out on unfixed tissues of both animals, and analysis of the DNA products indicated the presence of two novel alpha herpesviruses. The gross, histologic, ultrastructural, and molecular genetic findings indicate disseminated herpes viral infections; the lack of evidence of any other primary pathogenic organisms supports the conclusion that the alpha herpesviruses caused the deaths of the two dolphins. This is the first report of disseminated herpes viral infection in cetaceans.

Literature Cited

1.  Cheville NF. Ultrastructural Pathology: An Introduction to Interpretation. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press; 1994:502–514.

2.  Hohn AA. Age determination and age related factors in the teeth of western North Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Scientific Reports of the Whales Research Institute. 1980;32:39–66.


Speaker Information
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Terrell W. Blanchard, DVM, DACVP
Department of Veterinary Pathology
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
Washington, DC, USA

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