Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are the largest toothed whales and only living member of family Physeteridae. Present survey represents first report on cultivable faecal microbes and gastrointestinal helminths and protozoans infecting free-ranging sperm whales inhabiting Mediterranean Sea waters surrounding Balearic Archipelago, Spain. Twenty-five individual sperm whale scat samples, including one calf, were collected without disturbance of animals during the summer of 2016. Parasitological diagnostic methods, such as sodium acetate acetic formalin (SAF) method, carbol fuchsin-stained faecal smears, Giardia/Cryptosporidium coproantigen ELISAs and an Anisakis-specific PCR were applied for further identification. Five bacterial genera, i.e. Acinetobacter, Clostridium, Enterococcus, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, and one fungus namely Cladosporium were identified. Parasitological infections included seven different parasite species with some of them bearing anthropozoonotic potential. Thus, four of these parasites were zoonotic, i.e. Anisakis, Balantidium, Diphyllobothriidae gen. sp. and Giardia. Additionally, Zalophotrema curilensis eggs, spirurid-like eggs and Cystoisospora-like oocysts were identified. Molecular characterization identified Anisakis physeteris as the species infecting these whales. This survey provides first records on occurrence of two zoonotic enteropathogenic protozoan parasites (Giardia and Balantidium) and of facultative pathogenic bacteria (Clostridium and Enterococcus) in sperm whales. Presented data should be considered as a baseline study for future monitoring surveys on anthropozoonotic pathogens affecting free-living sperm whale populations and enhance investigations on possible impact on public health as well as on isolated Mediterranean sperm whale subpopulation.
Parasitology Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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