Herpesviruses and herpes-like viruses have been reported in only a small number of species of cetaceans, and, to date, clinical manifestations have been either as a life-threatening, disseminated infection or as a non-life-threatening dermatitis. A stranded juvenile Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, was admitted to the Dolphin and Whale Hospital for rehabilitation. On initial physical examination, the rostral skin had multifocal regions of hyperplasia, and the skin of the dorsum contained a large number of small papules. Histologically, epithelial hyperplasia was evident, and clusters of epithelial cells contained 5–15-μm intranuclear inclusion bodies. Transmission electron microscopic investigation revealed numerous 170–190-nm enveloped virions in both the intracellular spaces and the cytoplasm of epithelial cells, with numerous nucleocapsids noted in epithelial cell nuclei. Consensus primer polymerase chain reaction identified the presence of a novel herpesvirus associated with the lesions. Phylogenetic analysis of the deduced amino acid sequences of the herpesvirus DNA polymerase gene fragment showed it to align with alphaherpesvirus sequences from humans and domestic animals. Although clearly distinct, it was most closely related to two previously described alphaherpesviruses of dolphins. This case represents the first documentation of herpesvirus dermatitis in the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin.
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Vol. 37 • No. 2