Fatal Pulmonary and Cerebellar Zygomycosis due to Rhizomucor pusillus in a Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida)
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A 4-year-old captive ringed seal (Pusa hispida) was treated with subcutaneous antibacterial injections for pus exuding wounds in the skin and associated blubber following a bite attack. Three months after the incident, the animal presented nystagmus and died the following day. At necropsy, there was a 25 × 18 × 25 mm well-delineated, opaque nodular mass in the lung, besides the skin ulcers and localized areas of discoloration in the blubber correlating with the bite wound and injection sites. Histopathology of the pulmonary mass demonstrated severe eosinophilic inflammatory infiltration among numerous intralesional fungal hyphae. The hyphae were irregularly branched, broad and aseptate, consistent of zygomycosis. Magnetic resonance imaging was conducted on the head, which was initially frozen intact, revealing diffuse areas of hyperintensity in the cerebellum. Restricted histopathologic examination of the cerebellum showed severe granulomatous inflammation well spread within the neuroparenchyma, associated with abundant intralesional fungal hyphae similar to those appreciated in the pulmonary mass. Molecular analyses of the fungi in the pulmonary and cerebellar tissue identified the etiologic agent in both sites as Rhizomucor pusillus. The likely route of infection is through inhalation of R. pusillus spores or fragmented hyphae from the environment that developed into an initial pulmonary infection, becoming the source of hematogenous dissemination to the cerebellum. The skin and blubber lesions likely contributed to immunosuppression. Zygomycosis is uncommon in pinnipeds, and the present report emphasizes the importance of considering zygomycete dissemination even when the primary focus is highly confined.
KeywordsRhizomucor pusillus Zygomycosis Lung Cerebellum Ringed seal Ceroid
The authors thank the staff of Okhotsk Tokkari Center for their assistance in necropsy and sample collection.
This study was partially funded by the Sasakawa Scientific Research Grant (Grant Number 28-736) from The Japan Science Society.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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