AUG 22, 2021 6:53 AM PDT

Morbillivirus in Fraser's Dolphins May Infect Other Marine Mammals

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists are concerned about a virus they've recently identified in Fraser's dolphins. Though the disease has already been infecting these animals for a few years, researchers are sounding the alarm that the virus may infect many more species.

Investigators have been examining a Fraser's dolphin that was stranded on a Maui beach in 2018. The research study, which included analysis by transmission electron microscopy and growing the virus in culture, revealed a new strain of morbillivirus, which infects marine mammals. This is the first strain of morbillivirus linked to Fraser's dolphins, which are highly social animals. The findings have been published in Scientific Reports.

Image credit: Cropped from Paul Brennan/ Public domain pictures

Scientists have previously identified six new strains of morbillivirus in dolphins. Several were linked to unusual mortality events, with at least 50 dolphins perishing in Australia, while over 200 dolphins died in Brazilian waters. Sporadic deaths have also occurred in other areas. Scientists still have to determine how vulnerable Fraser's dolphins and other species may be to this virus.

Morbillivirus is related to the human viruses that cause measles and smallpox. Different strains have already caused outbreaks and deaths among other species of dolphins and whales around the world. It's thought that less than five percent of the dolphins and whales that die in the waters of Hawaii are recovered by the University of Hawai'i's Health and Stranding Lab, so there may be many more animals that are infected.

The study authors are encouraging other researchers and wildlife officials to be aware of the possibility of a morbillivirus outbreak in the dolphins and whales that spend time around Hawaiʻi. Antibody testing may provide some insight into whether Fraser's dolphins are under threat from this virus, or how extensive it may be in marine animals at this time.

The researchers are encouraging people that live in Hawai'i to report any sightings of marine mammals that may be in distress or deceased to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Wildlife Hotline at 1(888) 256-9840.

NOAA is now trying to vaccinate Hawaiian monk seals against morbillivirus. Monk seals are endangered, and the vaccination effort is attempting to create herd immunity in their communities.

Sources: University of Hawaii at Manoa, Scientific Reports

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 21, 2021
Coronavirus
The Molecular Gate That Enables SARS-CoV-2 to Infect Cells
AUG 21, 2021
The Molecular Gate That Enables SARS-CoV-2 to Infect Cells
Researchers investigating how the SARS-CoV-2 virus gets into cells to cause COVID-19 learned early on in the pandemic th ...
SEP 06, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Researchers Miniaturize the CRISPR Gene Editing Tool
SEP 06, 2021
Researchers Miniaturize the CRISPR Gene Editing Tool
The CRISPR gene editor uses RNA molecules that act as guides that ta Cas9 proteins, which are like enzymatic scissors, t ...
SEP 10, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
New Artificial Cells Can Ingest, Process & Expel Material
SEP 10, 2021
New Artificial Cells Can Ingest, Process & Expel Material
Better research models can help us solve some biological mysteries. In recent years, scientists have developed a variety ...
SEP 17, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Stem Cells May Aid in the Treatment of MRSA
SEP 17, 2021
How Stem Cells May Aid in the Treatment of MRSA
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a well known superbug, a pathogenic microbe that can cause serious ...
SEP 21, 2021
Microbiology
How Many Nasty Germs Are in Chewed Gum? Ig Nobel Winners Found Out
SEP 21, 2021
How Many Nasty Germs Are in Chewed Gum? Ig Nobel Winners Found Out
Do beards grow so a man's face will be protected from impact? Is it better to transport rhinos upside down? Does discard ...
OCT 03, 2021
Coronavirus
Merck's COVID-19 Drug Halves Risk of Death in Mild & Moderate Cases
OCT 03, 2021
Merck's COVID-19 Drug Halves Risk of Death in Mild & Moderate Cases
While Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIAID is already stressing that people should still get vaccinated to help reduce COVID-19 in ...
Loading Comments...