Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

In the search of marine pestiviruses : first case of Phocoena pestivirus in a Belt Sea harbour porpoise

Pestiviruses are widespread pathogens causing severe acute and chronic diseases among terrestrial mammals. Recently, Phocoena pestivirus (PhoPeV) was described in harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) of the North Sea, expanding the host range to marine mammals. While the role of the virus is unknown, intrauterine infections with the most closely related pestiviruses- Bungowannah pestivirus (BuPV) and Linda virus (LindaV)-can cause increased rates of abortions and deaths in young piglets. Such diseases could severely impact already vulnerable harbour porpoise populations. Here, we investigated the presence of PhoPeV in 77 harbour porpoises, 277 harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and ringed seals (Pusa hispida) collected in the Baltic Sea region between 2002 and 2019. The full genome sequence of a pestivirus was obtained from a juvenile female porpoise collected along the coast of Zealand in Denmark in 2011. The comparative Bayesian phylogenetic analyses revealed a close relationship between the new PhoPeV sequence and previously published North Sea sequences with a recent divergence from genotype 1 sequences between 2005 and 2009. Our findings provide further insight into the circulation of PhoPeV and expand the distribution from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea region with possible implications for the vulnerable Belt Sea and endangered Baltic Proper harbour porpoise populations.


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