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Clinical relevance of novel Otarine herpesvirus-3 in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus): lymphoma, esophageal ulcers, and strandings

Stephanie Venn-Watson1*, Celeste Benham1, Frances M Gulland2, Cynthia R Smith1, Judy St Leger3, Pam Yochem4, Hendrik Nollens3, Uriel Blas-Machado5, Jeremiah Saliki5, Katie Colegrove6, James FX Wellehan7 and Rebecca Rivera4

Author Affiliations

1 National Marine Mammal Foundation, 2240 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, California, 92106, USA

2 The Marine Mammal Center, 2000 Bunker Road, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito, San Francisco, California, 94965, USA

3 SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, SeaWorld San Diego, 500 SeaWorld Drive, San Diego, California, 92109, USA

4 Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute, 2595 Ingraham Street, San Diego, California, 92109, USA

5 Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, 501 DW Brooks Dr. Athens, Athens, Georgia, 30602, USA

6 Zoological Pathology Program, University of Illinois, LUMC Bldg 101 Rm 0745, 2160 S First Avenue, Maywood, Illinois, 60153, USA

7 College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, 1945 SW 16th Avenue, Gainesville, Florida, 32608, USA

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Veterinary Research 2012, 43:85  doi:10.1186/1297-9716-43-85

Published: 12 December 2012


Herpesviruses have been recognized in marine mammals, but their clinical relevance is not always easy to assess. A novel otarine herpesvirus-3 (OtHV3) was detected in a geriatric California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), and using a newly developed quantitative PCR assay paired with histology, OtHV3 was associated with esophageal ulcers and B cell lymphoblastic lymphoma in this animal. The prevalence and quantities of OtHV3 were then determined among buffy coats from 87 stranded and managed collection sea lions. Stranded sea lions had a higher prevalence of OtHV3 compared to managed collection sea lions (34.9% versus 12.5%; p = 0.04), and among the stranded sea lions, yearlings were most likely to be positive. Future epidemiological studies comparing the presence and viral loads of OtHV3 among a larger population of California sea lions with and without lymphoid neoplasia or esophageal ulcers would help elucidate the relevance of OtHV3-associated pathologies to these groups.