PLoS ONE (2015)

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124315


Poxvirus infections in marine mammals have been mainly reported through their clinical lesions and electron microscopy (EM). Poxvirus particles in association with such lesions have been demonstrated by EM and were previously classified as two new viruses, cetacean poxvirus 1 (CePV-1) and cetacean poxvirus 2 (CePV-2). In this study, epidermal pox lesions in cetaceans stranded in South West England (Cornwall) between 2008 and 2012 were investigated by electron microscopy and molecular analysis. PCR and sequencing of a highly conserved region within the viral DNA polymerase gene ruled out both parapox- and orthopoxviruses. Moreover, phylogenetic analysis of the PCR product clustered the sequences with those previously described as cetacean poxviruses. However, taking the close genetic distance of this gene fragment across the family of poxviridae into account, it is reasonable to postulate further, novel cetacean poxvirus species. The nucleotide similarity within each cluster (tentative species) detected ranged from 98.6% to 100%, whilst the similarity between the clusters was no more than 95%. The detection of several species of poxvirus in different cetacean species confirms the likelihood of a heterogeneous cetacean poxvirus genus, comparable to the heterogeneity observed in other poxvirus genera.