Microbial infection may contribute to disease in a significant proportion of marine mammal mortalities, but little is known about infectious bacterial species and their prevalence in dugongs (Dugong dugon). This study represents a survey of the species of bacteria and fungi isolated from dugongs submitted to the University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science for postmortem examination. Thirty-six dugongs were included in the survey, with 23 species of bacteria and four species of fungus cultured from lesions that were suspected of contributing to local infection, systemic infection, or both. The most abundant bacteria included Aeromonas spp., Clostridium spp., Vibrio spp., Enterococcus faecalis, and Pseudomonas spp. In six cases, the microorganism(s) cultured were considered to have been associated with disease. Mixed infections containing Aeromonas spp. and Vibrio spp.; Morganella morganii, Pasteurella multocida, and Serratia marcescens; and Actinomyces spp. and Peptostreptococcus spp. were associated with pneumonia or pleuritis, and Enterococcus faecalis was associated with a multisystemic infection in a neonate. Clostridium spp. was cultured from two animals with peritonitis and likely septicemia. The significance of many of the other isolates is uncertain because the samples were taken after death, and some of the species isolated may represent postmortem overgrowth. It is also difficult to fulfil Koch's postulates through experimental infection in marine mammals. Regardless, this information will assist clinicians working with dugongs to make treatment decisions and the baseline data on the prevalence of bacterial and fungal species is of value for monitoring coastal water habitat health and risks of zoonotic disease transmission.
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