Arbovirus of marine mammals: A new alphavirus isolated from the elephant seal louse, Lepidophthirus macrorhini

M. L. Linn, J. Gardner, D. Warrilow, G. A. Darnell, C. R. McMahon, I. Field, A. D. Hyatt, R. W. Slade, A. Suhrbier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A novel alphavirus was isolated from the louse Lepidophthirus macrorhini, collected from southern elephant seals, Mirounga leonina, on Macquarie Island, Australia. The virus displayed classic alphavirus ultrastructure and appeared to be serologically different from known Australasian alphaviruses. Nearly all Macquarie Island elephant seals tested had neutralizing antibodies against the virus, but no virus-associated pathology has been identified. Antarctic Division personnel who have worked extensively with elephant seals showed no serological evidence of exposure to the virus. Sequence analysis illustrated that the southern elephant seal (SES) virus segregates with the Semliki Forest group of Australasian alphaviruses. Phylogenetic analysis of known alphaviruses suggests that alphaviruses might be grouped according to their enzootic vertebrate host class. The SES virus represents the first arbovirus of marine mammals and illustrates that alphaviruses can inhabit Antarctica and that alphaviruses can be transmitted by lice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4103-4109
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Virology
Volume75
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

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