Genetics and pathology associated with Klebsiella pneumoniae and Klebsiella spp. isolates from North American Pacific coastal marine mammals

Erica K. Chang, Melissa Miller, Khalid Shahin, Francesca Batac, Cara L. Field, Pádraig Duignan, Carsten Struve, Barbara A. Byrne, Michael J. Murray, Katherine Greenwald, Woutrina A. Smith, Michael Ziccardi, Esteban Soto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Southern sea otters (SSO: Enhydra lutris nereis) are a federally-listed threatened subspecies found almost exclusively in California, USA. Despite their zoonotic potential and lack of host specificity, K. pneumoniae and Klebsiella spp. have largely unknown epizootiology in SSOs. Klebsiella pneumoniae is occasionally isolated at necropsy, but not from live SSOs. Hypermucoviscous (HMV) K. pneumoniae strains are confirmed pathogens of Pacific Basin pinnipeds, but have not been previously isolated from SSOs. We characterized the virulence profiles of K. pneumoniae isolates from necropsied SSOs, evaluated killing of marine mammal K. pneumoniae following in vitro exposure to California sea lion (CSL: Zalophanus californianus) whole blood and serum, and characterized lesion patterns associated with Klebsiella spp. infection in SSOs. Four of 15 SSO K. pneumoniae isolates were HMV and all were recovered from SSOs that stranded during 2005. Many K. pneumoniae infections were associated with moderate to severe pathology as a cause of death or sequela. All HMV infections were assessed as a primary cause of death or as a direct result of the primary cause of death. Klebsiella-infected SSOs exhibited bronchopneumonia, tracheobronchitis and/or pleuritis, enteritis, Profilicollis sp. acanthocephalan peritonitis, septic peritonitis, and septicemia. All SSO HMV isolates were capsular type K2, the serotype most associated with HMV infections in CSLs. Multiplex PCR revealed two distinct virulence gene profiles within HMV isolates and two within non-HMV isolates. In vitro experiments investigating CSL whole blood and serum killing of K. pneumoniae suggest that HMV isolates are more resistant to serum killing than non-HMV isolates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109307
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Blood killing
  • Hypermucoviscous
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Marine mammal
  • Peritonitis
  • Sea otter
  • Septicemia
  • serum resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • veterinary(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Genetics and pathology associated with Klebsiella pneumoniae and Klebsiella spp. isolates from North American Pacific coastal marine mammals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this