Characterization of morbilliviruses isolated from dolphins and porpoises in Europe.
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A previously unidentified morbillivirus was isolated from two harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) that had died in the Dutch Waddensea (North Sea) in 1990. This porpoise morbillivirus (PMV) and a dolphin morbillivirus (DMV), which had recently caused a heavy mortality in Mediterranean striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), were compared antigenically with other members of the genus Morbillivirus, including the newly recognized phocine distemper virus type 1. DMV and PMV proved to be similar but distinct morbilliviruses, closely related to rinderpest virus and peste-des-petits-ruminants virus. Cell cultures of cetacean, pinniped, ruminant and canine origin showed a different pattern of susceptibility to DMV and PMV infection. Ruminants and dogs proved to be susceptible to experimental infection with DMV and PMV, which both caused a transient leukopenia most pronounced in the ruminants. Pre-exposure of dogs to DMV and PMV protected them from developing CDV viraemia and clinical signs upon challenge infection with virulent CDV. A serological survey among stranded animals of different cetacean species in Europe indicated that infections with DMV- and PMV-like morbilliviruses are not uncommon among these aquatic mammals.
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