Epizootiology of a Cryptococcus gatti Outbreak in Porpoises and Dolphins From the Salish Sea

Cryptococcus gattii is a fungal pathogen that primarily affects the respiratory and nervous systems of humans and other animals. C. gattii emerged in temperate North America in 1999 as a multispecies outbreak of cryptococcosis in British Columbia (Canada) and Washington State and Oregon (USA), affecting humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. Here we describe the C. gattii epizootic in odontocetes. Cases of C. gattii were identified in 42 odontocetes in Washington and British Columbia between 1997 and 2016. Species affected included harbor porpoises Phocoena phocoena (n = 26), Dall’s porpoises Phocoenoides dalli (n = 14), and Pacific white-sided dolphins Lagenorhynchus obliquidens (n = 2). The probable index case was identified in an adult male Dall’s porpoise in 1997, 2 yr prior to the initial terrestrial outbreak. The spatiotemporal extent of the C. gattii epizootic was defined, and cases in odontocetes were found to be clustered around terrestrial C. gattii hotspots. Case-control analyses with stranded, uninfected odontocetes revealed that risk factors for infection were species (Dall’s porpoises), age class (adult animals), and season (winter). This study suggests that mycoses are an emerging source of mortality for odontocetes, and that outbreaks may be associated with anthropogenic environmental disturbance.


Teman, S.J., J.K. Gaydos, S.A. Norman, J.L. Huggins, D.M. Lambourn, J. Calambokidis, J.K.B. Ford, M.B. Hanson, M. Haulena, E. Zabek, P. Cottrell, L. Hoang, M. Morshed, M.M. Garner, and S. Raverty. 2021. Epizootiology of a Crytopcoccus gattii Outbreak in Porpoises and Dolphins From the Salish Sea. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 146: 129-143. doi: 10.3354/dao03630

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