Evidence of infectious diseases in harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) hunted in the waters of Greenland and by-caught in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea

A. Wunschmann, U. Siebert, K. Frese, R. Weiss, C. Lockyer, M. P. Heide-Jørgensen, G. Müller, W. Baumgärtner

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Abstract

The pathological, microbiological and serological findings in harbour porpoises hunted in Greenlandic waters were compared with the findings in animals accidentally caught in fishing gear in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea. The body condition of the Greenlandic animals was good, whereas nine of 23 German harbour porpoises were moderately to markedly emaciated. Both groups were infested with parasites. In the Greenlandic animals parasitism of the aural peribullar cavity with Stenurus minor, of the liver and pancreas with Orthosplanchnus mironovi, of the lungs with Halocercus species and of the subcutaneous and mammary tissue with Crassicauda species was generally associated with a mild inflammatory response. No diseases associated with bacteria were identified in any of the Greenlandic harbour porpoises. In the porpoises from the German North Sea and Baltic Sea, parasites were present in the aural peribullar cavity (S minor), liver (Campula oblonga), first and second gastric compartment (Anisakis simplex) and in the lungs (Pseudalius inflexus and Torynurus convolutus). Moderate to marked pulmonary parasitism and suppurative pneumonia, not observed in the Greenlandic porpoises, were present in 11 and 10, respectively, of the 23 German porpoises. The suppurative pneumonia was attributed to bacterial infection with β-haemolytic streptococci and Escherichia coli var haemolytica. Four Greenlandic and 10 German porpoises had positive porpoise morbillivirus-specific antibody titres suggesting that the virus was circulating in both populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-720
Number of pages6
JournalVeterinary Record
Volume148
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 9 2001

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