Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum, Sarcocystis neurona, and Sarcocystis canis-like infections in marine mammals

Veterinary Parasitology
By: , and 



Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum, Sarcocystis neurona, and S. canis are related protozoans that can cause mortality in many species of domestic and wild animals. Recently, T. gondii and S. neurona were recognized to cause encephalitis in marine mammals. As yet, there is no report of natural exposure of N. caninum in marine mammals. In the present study, antibodies to T. gondii and N. caninum were assayed in sera of several species of marine mammals. For T. gondii, sera were diluted 1:25, 1:50, and 1:500 and assayed in the T. gondii modified agglutination test (MAT). Antibodies (MAT a?Y1:25) to T. gondii were found in 89 of 115 (77%) dead, and 18 of 30 (60%) apparently healthy sea otters (Enhydra lutris), 51 of 311 (16%) Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), 19 of 45 (42%) sea lions (Zalophus californianus), 5 of 32 (16%) ringed seals (Phoca hispida), 4 of 8 (50%) bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), 1 of 9 (11.1%) spotted seals (Phoca largha), 138 of 141 (98%) Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and 3 of 53 (6%) walruses (Odobenus rosmarus). For N. caninum, sera were diluted 1:40, 1:80, 1:160, and 1:320 and examined with the Neospora agglutination test (NAT) using mouse-derived tachyzoites. NAT antibodies were found in 3 of 53 (6%) walruses, 28 of 145 (19%) sea otters, 11 of 311 (3.5%) harbor seals, 1 of 27 (3.7%) sea lions, 4 of 32 (12.5%) ringed seals, 1 of 8 (12.5%) bearded seals, and 43 of 47 (91%) bottlenose dolphins. To our knowledge, this is the first report of N. caninum antibodies in any marine mammal, and the first report of T. gondii antibodies in walruses and in ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon seals. Current information on T. gondii-like and Sarcocystis-like infections in marine mammals is reviewed. New cases of clinical S. canis and T. gondii infections are also reported in sea lions, and T. gondii infection in an Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus).

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum, Sarcocystis neurona, and Sarcocystis canis-like infections in marine mammals
Series title Veterinary Parasitology
Volume 116
Issue 4
Year Published 2003
Language English
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description p. 275-296
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Veterinary Parasitology
First page 275
Last page 296
Country United States
State Alaska, California, Washington
Other Geospatial Pacific Coast
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N