Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Case report

Dolphin Morbillivirus and Toxoplasma gondii coinfection in a Mediterranean fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Sandro Mazzariol1*, Federica Marcer2, Walter Mignone3, Laura Serracca3, Mariella Goria3, Letizia Marsili4, Giovanni Di Guardo5 and Cristina Casalone3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, University of Padova, AGRIPOLIS - Viale dell'Università, 16, 35020 Legnaro, (PD), Italy

2 Department of Animal Medicine, Production and Health, University of Padova, viale dell'Università 16, 35020 Legnaro, (PD), Italy

3 Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Piemonte Liguria e Valle d'Aosta, via Bologna 148, 10154 Torino, Italy

4 Department of Environmental Science, University of Siena "G. Sarfatti", via P.A. Mattioli 4, 53100 Siena, Italy

5 Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, piazza Aldo Moro 45, 64100 Teramo, Italy

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:20  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-20

Published: 7 March 2012



Although Morbillivirus and Toxoplasma gondii have emerged as important pathogens for several cetaceans populations over the last 20 years, they have never been identified together in a Mysticete. In particular, morbilliviral infection has been never described in the Mediterranean fin whale population.

Case presentation

On January 2011 an adult male of fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) stranded along the Tyrrhenian coastline of Italy. During necropsy, tissue samples from heart, skeletal muscle, mesenteric lymph nodes, liver, spleen, lung, and kidney were collected and subsequently analyzed for Morbillivirus and Toxoplasma gondii by microscopic and molecular methods. Following the detailed necropsy carried out on this whale, molecular analysis revealed, for the first time, the simultaneous presence of a Dolphin Morbillivirus (DMV) and T. gondii infection coexisting with each other, along with high organochlorine pollutant concentrations, with special reference to DDT.


This report, besides confirming the possibility for Mysticetes to be infected with DMV, highlights the risk of toxoplasmosis in sea water for mammals, already immunodepressed by concurrent factors as infections and environmental contaminants.

Dolphin Morbillivirus; Toxoplasma gondii; Fin whale; DDT; Mediterranean Sea