Revue Scientifique et Technique de l'OIE (1993)

DOI: 10.20506/rst.12.1.687


Since 1987, morbillivirus infections have caused serious disease outbreaks with high mortality among aquatic mammals. Baikal seals (Phoca sibirica) in Siberia were involved in an outbreak caused by a virus closely related to canine distemper virus (CDV) in 1987. Harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in north-western Europe were struck by a newly recognised morbillivirus of seals (PDV1). A serological survey has indicated that these morbillivirus infections frequently occur among several pinniped species. Besides pinnipeds, the presence of morbillivirus infections among cetaceans, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, has been demonstrated since the outbreak of PDV among seals in north-western Europe. Morbillivirus was isolated from several stranded harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). This virus proved to be very similar to a virus which was isolated during a disease outbreak with high mortality among striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) in the Mediterranean area. The viruses isolated from these cetacean species were quite different from the viruses isolated from the seals. They proved more related to the ruminant morbilliviruses, peste des petits ruminants virus and rinderpest virus. The potential transmission of the dolphin morbillivirus to the endangered population of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) has been considered. Studies are presently being conducted into the possibility of inducing protection against morbillivirus infection in this species by vaccination with an immune stimulating complex (ISCOM) preparation based on CDV.