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Mycobacterial disease has been reported in both free-ranging and captive southern hemisphere pinnipeds in Australasia, South America and Europe. Although isolates in cases published prior to 2001 had biochemical characteristics which suggested Mycobacterium bovis, genetic analyses revealed differences and Cousins and others (2003) demonstrated that these isolates were phenotypically and genetically distinct from M bovis and belonged to a unique member of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, given the name Mycobacterium pinnipedii. M pinnipedii has since been isolated from other southern hemisphere pinnipeds, for example, Kriz and others (2011). This paper describes the isolation and identification of what is believed to be the first confirmed case of M bovis in a pinniped. It was isolated from a grey seal pup (Halichoerus grypus) undergoing rehabilitation.
The seal was found on the south coast of Cornwall in January 2012. It was estimated to be four months of age and weighed 26 kg. The seal was hospitalised in a facility which rehabilitated up to 50 grey seal pups a year and also held a variety of indigenous and non-indigenous pinniped species, otters, penguins, ponies, goats and sheep. On examination, the most significant findings were one 5 cm long open infected wound on the perineum, puncture wounds over both hocks and a tear in the webbing of the right hind flipper. A two-week course of amoxycillin/clavulanic acid was given (Noroclav, initially at 8.75 mg/kg intramuscular, then at 12.5 mg/kg orally, Norbrook, UK). The wounds healed, but due to persistent neutrophilia (initially 22.95 × 109/l, increasing to 72.25 × 109/l; reference range: 2–12 × 109/l; Barnett and Robinson 2003) and failure to gain weight consistently, a two-week course of enrofloxacin (Enrox, 5 mg/kg orally, Virbac, UK) and one injection of long-acting oxytetracycline (Alamycin LA, 20 mg/kg intramuscular, Norbrook, UK) were then given. Over the next month, the seal developed granulomas …