Lung tissue from 39 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) found dead off the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts from 1987 to 1994 was examined for the presence of morbillivirus using a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technique. Of the Atlantic cases examined, six of six were positive using this assay; 18 of 25 Gulf of Mexico cases with amplifiable RNA also were found to be positive, and eight additional specimens had no amplifiable RNA. The RT-PCR allowed the diagnosis of morbillivirus infection to be made from either sections of paraffin-embedded formalin-fixed material or from unfixed tissue. Confirmation of diagnosis was made by subsequent hybridization of the amplified products with a dolphin morbillivirus specific probe using the Southern blot technique. Application of this method to autolyzed post-mortem tissues allows diagnoses of morbillivirus infection to be made in specimens which cannot be evaluated by histologic and immunocytochemical techniques.
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