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Phylogenomic insights to the origin and spread of phocine distemper virus in European harbour seals in 1988 and 2002

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Author(s)

Iben Stokholm, Tero Härkönen, Karin C. Harding, Ursula Siebert, Kristina Lehnert, Rune Dietz, Jonas Teilmann, Anders Galatius, Linnea Worsøe Havmøller, Emma L. Carroll, Ailsa Hall, Morten Tange Olsen

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Abstract

The 1988 and 2002 phocine distemper virus (PDV) outbreaks in European harbour seals Phoca vitulina are among the largest mass mortality events recorded in marine mammals. Despite its large impact on harbour seal population numbers, and 3 decades of studies, many questions regarding the spread and temporal origin of PDV remain unanswered. Here, we sequenced and analysed 7123 bp of the PDV genome, including the coding and non-coding regions of the entire P, M, F and H genes in tissues from 44 harbour seals to shed new light on the origin and spread of PDV in 1988 and 2002. The phylogenetic analyses trace the origin of the PDV strain causing the 1988 outbreak to between June 1987 and April 1988, while the origin of the strain causing the 2002 outbreak can be traced back to between July 2001 and April 2002. The analyses further point to several independent introductions of PDV in 1988, possibly linked to a southward mass immigration of harp seals in the winter and spring of 1987−1988. The vector for the 2002 outbreak is unknown, but the epidemiological analyses suggest the subsequent spread of PDV from the epicentre in the Kattegat, Denmark, to haul-out sites in the North Sea through several independent introductions.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Volume133
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2019

    Research areas

  • Epidemic, Morbillivirus, Viral phylogeny, Virus evolution, Wildlife pathogen

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