The mechanism by which Helicobacter species are transmitted remains unclear. To examine the possible role of environmental transmission in marine mammals, we sought the presence of Helicobacter spp. and non-Helicobacter bacteria within the order Campylobacterales in water from the aquatic environment of marine mammals, and in fish otoliths regurgitated by dolphins. Water was collected from six pools, two inhabited by dolphins and four inhabited by seals. Regurgitated otoliths were collected from the bottom of dolphins' pools. Samples were evaluated by culture, PCR and DNA sequence analysis. Sequences from dolphins' water and from regurgitated otoliths clustered with 99.8-100% homology with sequences from gastric fluids, dental plaque and saliva from dolphins living in those pools, and with 99.5% homology with H. cetorum. Sequences from seals' water clustered with 99.5% homology with a sequence amplified from a Northern sea lion (AY203900). Control PCR on source water for the pools and from otoliths dissected from feeder fish were negative. The findings of Helicobacter spp. DNA in the aquatic environment suggests that contaminated water from regurgitated fish otoliths and perhaps other tissues may play a role in Helicobacter transmission among marine mammals.
- Marine mammals
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