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Evidence of infectious diseases in harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) hunted in the waters of Greenland and by-caught in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea
  1. A. Wunschimann, Drmedvet1,1,
  2. K. Frese, Drmedvet1,
  3. G. Müiller, Drmedvet1,
  4. W. Baumgärtner, PhD,Drmedvet1,
  5. U. Siebert, Drmedvet2,
  6. R. Weiss, Drmedvet3,
  7. C. Lockyer, PhD4 and
  8. M. P. Heide-Jørgensen, PhD5,2
  1. 1 Institut für Veterinär-Pathologie, Justus Liebig Universität, Giessen, Frankfurter Strasse 96, D-35392 Giessen, Germany
  2. 2 Forschungs- und Technologiezentrum Wesküste, Büsum, Christian Albrechts Universität, Kiel, Werftstrasse 10, D-25761 Büsum, Germany
  3. 3 Institut für Hygiene und Infektions Krankheiten der Haustiere, Justus Liebig Universität, Giessen, Frankfurter Strasse 89, D-35392 Giessen, Germany
  4. 4 Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Marine and Coastal Ecology, Charlottenlund Slot, DK-2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark
  5. 5 Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Tagensvej 135, DK-2200 Copenhagen, Denmark


The pathological, microbiological and serological findings in harbour porpoises hunted in Greenlandic waters were compared with the findings in animals accidentally caught in fishing gear in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea. The body condition of the Greenlandic animals was good, whereas nine of 23 German harbour porpoises were moderately to markedly emaciated. Both groups were infested with parasites. In the Greenlandic animals parasitism of the aural peribullar cavity with Stenurus minor, of the liver and pancreas with Orthosplanchnus mironovi, of the lungs with Halocercus species and of the subcutaneous and mammary tissue with Crassicauda species was generally associated with a mild inflammatory response. No diseases associated with bacteria were identified in any of the Greenlandic harbour porpoises. In the porpoises from the German North Sea and Baltic Sea, parasites were present in the aural peribullar cavity (S minor), liver (Campula oblonga), first and second gastric compartment (Anisakis simplex) and in the lungs (Pseudalius inflexus and Torynurus convolutus). Moderate to marked pulmonary parasitism and suppurative pneumonia, not observed in the Greenlandic porpoises, were present in 1 1 and 10, respectively, of the 23 German porpoises. The suppurative pneumonia was attributed to bacterial infection with β haemolytic streptococci and Escherichia coli var haemolytica. Four Greenlandic and 10 German porpoises had positive porpoise morbillivirus-specific antibody titres suggesting that the virus was circulating in both populations.

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  • Dr Wunschmann's present address is Department of Veterinary Diagnostic Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, 1333 Gartner Avenue, St Paul, MN 55108, USA

  • Dr Heide-Jørgensen's present address is National Marine Mammal Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115-0070, USA

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