Age-prevalence of Otarine Herpesvirus-1, a tumor-associated virus, and possibility of its sexual transmission in California sea lions

Elizabeth L. Buckles, Linda J Lowenstine, Robert L. DeLong, Sharon R. Melin, Regina K. Vittore, Hong Nei Wong, Gately L. Ross, Judith A. St Leger, Denise J. Greig, Rebecca S. Duerr, Frances M D Gulland, Jeffrey L Stott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Otarine Herpesvirus-1 (OtHV-1) is a gammaherpesvirus routinely detected in urogenital tumor tissues of adult sea lions dying during rehabilitation, To investigate the epidemiology of this virus and guide the development of a mathematical model of its role in the multifactorial etiology of cancer in California sea lions, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of an OtHV-1 specific fragment of the DNA polymerase gene was used to look for evidence of OtHV-1 infection in urogenital and pharyngeal swabs and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of sea lions of different ages. Samples were also examined from pregnant females and their late term in utero or aborted fetuses to investigate potential for vertical transmission. Prevalence of infection in 72 adult females was 22%, whereas it was 46% in 52 adult males, and was significantly lower in 120 juvenile animals (6%). OtHV-1 DNA was most often detected in the lower reproductive tract of the adult animals, especially the males, and rarely in the pharynx or urogenital tract of juvenile animals. These data suggest sexual transmission may an important route of transmission. Additional studies are required to confirm this mode of transmission. Additionally, the virus was detected in a single prematurely born pup, suggesting the possibility of perinatal transmission. No indication of a PBMC associated viremia was evident in adults using standard PCR or in juveniles using standard and real time PCR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 25 2007


  • California sea lion
  • Epidemiology
  • Gammaherpesvirus
  • Otarine Herpesvirus-1 (OtHV-1)
  • Zalophus californianus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Microbiology
  • veterinary(all)


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