Otarine herpesvirus 1 (OtHV1) is strongly associated with California sea lion (CSL, Zalophus californianus) urogenital carcinoma, the most common cancer documented in marine mammals. In addition to CSL, OtHV1 has also been found in association with carcinoma in South American fur seals (Arctocephalus australis), demonstrating it can infect related species. Northern fur seals (NFS, Callorhinus ursinus) are sympatric with CSL, and copulation between these species has been observed; yet, there are no reports of urogenital carcinoma in NFS. We describe a new Otarine herpesvirus found in vaginal swabs from NFS, herein called OtHV4. Partial sequencing of the polymerase gene and the glycoprotein B gene revealed OtHV4 is closely related to OtHV1, with 95% homology in the region of polymerase sequenced, and phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that they are sister taxa. An OtHV4-specific hydrolysis probe quantitative PCR was developed and validated, and its use on vaginal swabs revealed 16 of 50 (32%) wild adult female NFS were positive for OtHV4. The identification of a virus highly similar to the carcinoma-associated OtHV1 in a sympatric species without carcinoma suggests that comparative genomics of OtHV1 and OtHV4 may identify candidate viral oncogenes.
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Vol. 52 • No. 1