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Emerging Viruses in Marine Mammals

  • Infectious disease


Emerging infectious disease has become a serious concern that has consequences for human, animal and environmental health on a global scale. During the past two decades, it has become clear that viruses are emerging in terrestrial environments from the human–animal interface at an unprecedented rate. Thus, the understanding of complex diseases associated with emerging zoonotic pathogens and the creation and execution of strategies to deal with this issue has assumed new public health importance, requiring a One Health approach involving multiple health disciplines. Similar infectious disease trends involving emerging viruses are now being documented in aquatic ecosystems and are impacting marine mammals. As in terrestrial species, emerging viruses in marine mammals may be associated with neoplasia, epizootics and zoonotic disease and involve a complex pathogenesis involving noninfectious cofactors such as anthropogenic toxins, biotoxins, immunologic suppression and other environmental stressors. Among the viruses recently isolated from marine mammals are influenza viruses, morbilliviruses, papillomaviruses, herpesviruses, arboviruses, caliciviruses and others. Many of these emerging marine mammal viruses are associated with disease and specific pathologic findings. In other cases, the disease significance of these novel viruses is unknown and requires further research. In this report, we briefly review emerging viruses that have disease significance for marine mammals and/or public health. Novel concurrent clinicopathologic data will be presented when available broadening the understanding of disease pathogenesis. References will help provide more in-depth information. Additionally, this review has demonstrated that marine mammals may be important sentinel animals that indicate environmental health concerns and parallel emerging public health issues. 

Bossart, G.D. and Duignan, P.J. Emerging viruses in marine mammals. CAB Reviews 13(052): DOI: 10.1079/PAVSNNR2019 13052

infectious disease
Pádraig Duignan

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