The virus epizootics which occurred in seals in both Europe and Siberia during 1987/1988 were caused by two different morbilliviruses, referred to as phocid distemper virus (PDV) 1 and 2, respectively. Molecular and serological studies have shown that the European virus is quite distinct from canine distemper virus (CDV), its closest relative in the morbillivirus group. Analysis of tissues obtained from infected seals from a wide geographical distribution over Northern Europe showed that the infectious agent (PDV 1) was identical in all cases. Nucleotide sequence analysis of one of the virus genes suggested that this virus has evolved away from CDV over a long time period and is most probably an enzootic virus of marine mammals. In contrast, the virus (PDV 2) which caused the deaths of many Siberian seals was indistinguishable, both serologically and at the molecular level, from CDV and must have originated from a land source.

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Science of the Total Environment
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Barrett, T., Crowther, J., Osterhaus, A., Subbarao, S. M., Groen, J., Haas, L., … Bostock, C. J. (1992). Molecular and serological studies on the recent seal virus epizootics in Europe and Siberia. Science of the Total Environment, 115(1-2), 117–132. doi:10.1016/0048-9697(92)90037-S