Evaluation of viruses and their association with ocular lesions in pinnipeds in rehabilitation

Erin P. Wright, Lynnette F. Waugh, Tracey Goldstein, Katie S. Freeman, Terra R. Kelly, Elizabeth A. Wheeler, Brett R. Smith, Frances M D Gulland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess whether corneal lesions in stranded pinnipeds were associated with viral infections, and to identify the potential pathogen(s) associated with the lesions. Animals studied: Twenty-nine California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), 18 northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), and 34 Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardsii). Procedure: DNA and RNA were extracted from ocular swabs, corneal tissue, and aqueous humor and screened for herpesvirus, adenovirus, poxvirus, and calicivirus families by PCR. Results: The results indicated a high overall prevalence of viruses, with adenoviruses and herpesviruses detected in all three host species. Three novel adenoviruses (PhAdV-1, PhAdV-2, OtAdV-2) and two novel herpesviruses (PhHV-6, OtHV-4) were detected. There were no statistical differences in the prevalence of viral infection or coinfection among groups of individuals with or without corneal lesions, nor were lesion type, onset, or presence of concurrent disease significantly associated with a viral infection. Conclusions: The results suggested that viral presence in ocular tissues was common, not significantly associated with ocular disease and thus should not preclude release of an otherwise healthy animal. We could not confirm a correlation of virus presence with lesion due to the high percentage of virus-positive, clinically normal animals. This implied that seals and sea lions can have ocular tissues infected with several viruses without having readily evident associated lesions. This difficulty in correlating viral presence, particularly herpesviruses, with ocular lesions was also a common finding in studies with terrestrial species and highlighted the difficulty of confirming a virus as a primary pathogen in ocular lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-159
Number of pages12
JournalVeterinary Ophthalmology
Issue numbers1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Corneal opacity
  • Keratitis
  • Ocular lesion
  • Sea lion
  • Seal
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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