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Epizootic of morbilliviral disease in common dolphins (Delphinus delphis ponticus) from the Black Sea
  1. A. Birkun, Jr, MD1,
  2. T. Kuiken, DVM, PhD2,
  3. S. Krivokhizhin1,
  4. D. M. Haines, DVM, MPhil, PhD3,
  5. A. D. M. E. Osterhaus, DVM, PhD4,
  6. M. W. G. van de Bildt4,
  7. C. R. Joiris, PhD5 and
  8. U. Siebert, DVM, PhD6
  1. 1 BREMA Laboratory, Simferopol, Crimea 333720, Ukraine
  2. 2 Department of Veterinary Pathology
  3. 3 Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, 52 Campus Drive, Saskatoon SK S7N 5B4, Canada
  4. 4 Department of Virology, Erasmus University, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  5. 5 Laboratory for Ecotoxicology, Free University of Brussels, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
  6. 6 Forschungs- und Technologiezentrum Westküste, Hafentörn, D-25761 Büsum, Germany
  1. Department of Veterinary Pathology


Forty-seven common dolphins (Delphinus delphis ponticus) were stranded on the northem shores of the Black Sea between mid-July and early September 1994, more than in previous or subsequent years. Two of the 47 dolphins were examined in detail to try to determine the cause of the increased stranding rate. Their lesions included broncho-interstitial pneumonia with type 11 epithelial cell hyperplasia and multinucleate syncytial cells, neuronal necrosis, gliosis, and non-suppurative meningitis of the brain, necrotic stomatitis, gastroenteritis and cholangitis, and lymphoid depletion of the spleen and lymph nodes. The diseased tissues stained positive in an immunoperoxidase test, using a polyclonal antiserum to measles virus as the primary antibody, and electron microscopy showed that they contained regularly-shaped intranuclear particles about 22 nm in diameter. They were positive by the polymerase chain reaction (PcR) for the nucleoprotein gene of morbillivirus. However, there was no evidence of morbillivirus in frozen tissues either by virus isolation or by antigen capture EUSA. The concentration of ΣDDTS in the blubber of both dolphins was about 50 to 100 times higher than the levels in toothed cetaceans from the North Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Baltic Sea. The lesions were consistent with those found in other species with morbilliviral disease, and the positive immunoperoxidase test, PCR and electron microscopical examination confirmed a morbillivirus as the primary cause of these lesions.

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