Cutaneous pox-like lesions are a common complication in the rehabilitation of pinnipeds. However, the exact identity, taxonomy, and host range of pinniped parapoxviruses remain unknown. During a poxvirus outbreak in May 2003 in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) at a marine mammal rehabilitation facility, multiple raised, firm, 1–3-cm skin nodules from the head, neck, and thorax of one sea lion weanling pup that spontaneously died were collected. Histologically, the nodules were characterized by inflammation and necrosis of the dermis and epidermis, acanthosis, and ballooning degeneration of the stratum spinosum. Large, coalescing eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusions were observed in the ballooned cells. A parapoxvirus (sea lion poxvirus 1, SLPV-1) was isolated on early passage California sea lion kidney cells inoculated with a tissue homogenate of a skin nodule. The morphology of the virions on electron microscopy was consistent with that of parapoxviruses. Partial sequencing of the genomic region encoding the putative major virion envelope antigen p42K confirmed the assignment of the sea lion poxvirus to the genus Parapoxvirus. Although SLPV-1 is most closely related to the poxvirus of harbor seals of the European North Sea, it is significantly different from orf virus, bovine papular stomatitis virus, pseudocowpox virus and the parapoxvirus of New Zealand red deer.
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Vol. 42 • No. 1