Twenty juvenile northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) that died between 1998 and 2004 had ulcers on the tongue, palatine mucosa, and/or tonsils. Histologic examination of the lesions revealed cytoplasmic swelling, nuclear pyknosis, and eosinophilic to amphophilic intranuclear inclusions bodies suggestive of herpesviral infection. Electron microscopic examination and polymerase chain reaction analysis confirmed the presence of a herpesvirus. Subsequent DNA sequencing identified this to be a new gammaherpesvirus that was similar to Porcine lymphotropic virus 2, Alcephaline herpesvirus 1 (malignant catarrhal fever virus from wildebeest), and Chlorocebus rhadinovirus 1 from African green monkeys. Identical herpesviral DNA was also detected in blood and mucosal swabs collected from five healthy elephant seal pups.
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Vol. 42 • No. 4