Diseases of Aquatic Organisms (1996)

DOI: 10.3354/dao026001


We report on genital warts in dusky dolphins Lagenorhynchus obscurus, long-snouted common dolphins Delphinus capensis, bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus and Burmeister’s porpoises Phocoena spinipinnis caught in fisheries off central Peru. Lesions were observed inside the genital slit, on the skin adjacent to it, on the penis and on the vagina. Macro- and microscopical features of the lesions resemble those of benign genital warts associated with papillomavirus infection in humans. Genital warts from L. obscurus and P. spinipinnis contained nuclei which stained positive for genus-specific papillomavirus structural antigens, though weakly in the latter species. These data suggest that papillomavirus(es) may be the etiological agent(s) of the disease. The prevalence of the lesions in 130 small cetaceans was high: 66.7% (confidence interval, CI, 57.0 to 74.0%) in L. obscurus (n = 78), 50% in D. capensis (n = 10), 33% in T. truncatus (n = 9) and 48.5% (CI 33.0 to 64.0%) in P. spinipinnis (n = 33). This suggests a venereal transmission of the disease, as in humans. Sexual variation in wart prevalence was found in L. obscurus and P. spinipinnis with males being 2 and 3 times more infected than females, respectively. No correlation was observed between body length (as a measure of age) and wart prevalence, suggesting that no strong and long-lasting immunity was induced in affected animals or that they may have been infected by different types of papillomaviruses. Lingual tumours were seen in 1 D. capensis.