Genetic identification of novel poxviruses of cetaceans and pinnipeds
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Novel poxviruses were identified in skin lesions of several species of cetaceans and pinnipeds using polymerase chain reaction targeting DNA polymerase and DNA topoisomerase I genes of members of the subfamily Chordopoxvirinae. With the exception of parapoxviruses, no molecular data of marine mammal poxviruses were available to infer genetic and evolutionary relatedness to terrestrial vertebrate poxviruses. Viruses were assigned to a cetacean poxvirus 1 (CPV-1) group based on nucleotide and amino acid identities of gene fragments amplified from skin lesions of Asian bottlenose (Tursiops aduncus), Atlantic bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus), rough-toothed (Steno bredanensis), and striped (Stenella coeruleoalba) dolphins. A different poxvirus was detected in skin lesions of a bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) and provisionally assigned to a CPV-2 group. These viruses showed highest identity to terrestrial poxviruses of the genera Orthopoxvirus and Suipoxvirus. A novel species-specific poxvirus was also identified in skin lesions of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). None of these poxviruses were found to have amplifiable hemagglutinin gene sequences. Novel parapoxviruses were also identified in skin lesions of Steller sea lions and spotted seals (Phoca largha). A significant degree of divergence was observed in sequences of Steller sea lion parapoxviruses, while those of spotted seals and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) were highly conserved.
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