Herpesvirus infection in stranded pacific harbor seals of coastal California

F. M D Gulland, Linda J Lowenstine, J. M. Lapointe, T. Spraker, D. P. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Histopathological examination revealed multifocal acute to chronic adrenal necrosis in 74 of 162 (45%) Pacific harbor seal pups (Phoca vitulina richardsi) dying during rehabilitation following live stranding along the coast of central and northern California (USA). Necrotic adrenal cells contained amphophilic, smudgy intranuclear inclusion bodies that were stained positive for DNA. Fifty of these seals also had lesions typical of sepsis, bacterial omphalophlebitis, pneumonia or gastroenteritis. Twenty four seals had no lesions other than thymic atrophy and occasional multifocal hepatic necrosis. Prior to death, affected seals had a marked lymphopenia. Electron microscopy revealed unenveloped intranuclear hexagonal to round viral particles approximately 100 nm in diameter, and cytoplasmic enveloped virions approximately 160 nm in diameter. These were morphologically consistent with herpesvirus. Inoculation of phocine adrenal and kidney cell lines with an adrenal tissue homogenate from affected animals produced a cytopathic effect in 5 days. Electron microscopy of cell cultures showing this cytopathic effect revealed similar viral particles to those observed in affected adrenal glands. Cases with characteristic inclusion bodies were observed in 42 of 95 (44%) male and 32 of 67 (47%) female seals. Affected animals had been in rehabilitation 0 to 63 days and were below average birth weight for this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-458
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Wildlife Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1997


  • Adrenal
  • Harbor seal
  • Herpesvirus
  • Pathology
  • Phoca vitulina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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