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A Brief Introduction to Influenza A Virus in Marine Mammals

Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB,volume 2123)

Abstract

Influenza A infection has been detected in marine mammals going back to 1975, with additional unconfirmed outbreaks as far back as 1931. Over the past forty years, infectious virus has been recovered on ten separate occasions from both pinnipeds (harbor seal, elephant seal, and Caspian seal) and cetaceans (striped whale and pilot whale). Recovered viruses have spanned a range of subtypes (H1, H3, H4, H7, H10, and H13) and, in all but H1N1, show strong evidence for deriving directly from avian sources. To date, there have been five unusual mortality events directly attributed to influenza A virus; these have primarily occurred in harbor seals in the Northeastern United States, with the most recent occurring in harbor seals in the North Sea.

There are numerous additional reports wherein influenza A virus has indirectly been identified in marine mammals; these include serosurveillance efforts that have detected influenza A- and B-specific antibodies in marine mammals spanning the globe and the detection of viral RNA in both active and opportunistic surveillance in the Northwest Atlantic. For viral detection and recovery, nasal, rectal, and conjunctival swabs have been employed in pinnipeds, while blowhole, nasal, and rectal swabs have been employed in cetaceans. In the case of deceased animals, virus has also been detected in tissue. Surveillance has historically been somewhat limited, relying largely upon opportunistic sampling of stranded or bycaught animals and primarily occurring in response to a mortality event. A handful of active surveillance projects have shown that influenza may be more endemic in marine mammals than previously appreciated, though live virus is difficult to recover. Surveillance efforts are hindered by permitting and logistical challenges, the absence of reagents and methodology optimized for nonavian wild hosts, and low concentration of virus recovered from asymptomatic animals. Despite these challenges, a growing body of evidence suggests that marine mammals are an important wild reservoir of influenza and may contribute to mammalian adaptation of avian variants.

Key words

  • Sea mammal influenza
  • Influenza A marine mammals
  • Marine mammals disease

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Correspondence to Jonathan A. Runstadler .

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Runstadler, J.A., Puryear, W. (2020). A Brief Introduction to Influenza A Virus in Marine Mammals. In: Spackman, E. (eds) Animal Influenza Virus. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 2123. Humana, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-0716-0346-8_33

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-0716-0346-8_33

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