[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A workshop was organised to ascertain the current situation with regard to morbillivirus infections in aquatic animals. The great interest generated by the discovery of these new virus infections in 1988 has to some extent abated but much high quality research has continued in this field as the workshop showed. There is some serological evidence that the viruses have continued to circulate in most areas since the initial epizootics. As to their origin, it appears that the most likely source of the European seal morbillivirus (PDV-1) is the North Atlantic and Artic seal populations. As to the origin of the Mediterranean dolphin morbillivirus and the morbilliviruses isolated from porpoises, there is serological evidence that the viruses are widespread in many cetacean species in the Atlantic and 93% of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) which mass stranded between 1982 and 1993 were morbillivirus seropositive. The epizootic in freshwater seals in Lake Baikal was unrelated to events in the European marine mammal populations. The virus which infected these animals (PDV-2) is indistinguishable from canine distemper field strains. Serological and molecular biological studies provided evidence for the presence of the virus in the seals, at least as late as the Summer of 1992 when the animals were last sampled.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Since 1988 morbilliviruses have been increasingly recognized and held responsible for mass mortality amongst harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and other seal species. Virus isolations and characterization proved that morbilliviruses from seals in Northwest Europe were genetically distinct from other known members of this group including canine distemper virus (CDV), rinderpest virus, peste des petits ruminants virus and measles virus. An epidemic in Baikal seals in 1987 was apparently caused by a morbillivirus closely related to CDV so that two morbilliviruses have now been identified in two geographically distant seal populations, with only the group of isolates from Northwest Europe forming a new member of the genus morbillivirus: phocid distemper virus (PDV). Because of distemper-like disease, the Baikal seal morbillivirus was tentatively named PDV-2 in spite of its possible identity with CDV. The appearance of morbilliviruses in the Mediterranean Sea causing high mortality amongst dolphins should further increase the research activities on protection strategies for endangered species of marine mammals.