Atlanta, GA, United States
Atlanta, GA, United States

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Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (HERA) team members secure an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin while a health exam is performed. Credit: Georgia Aquarium/Addison Hill Two populations of wild dolphins living off the coast of Florida and South Carolina are experiencing more chronically activated immune systems than dolphins living in controlled environments, raising concerns of researchers about overall ocean health, and the long-term health of bottlenose dolphins. The research, publishing May 3 in the scientific journal PLOS ONE is the first study of its kind analyzing the role the environment plays in the overall health and immune response of dolphins in the wild compared to those in human care. "This is likely a result of encountering pathogens, parasites and anthropogenic pollutants in the ocean that do not exist in closely managed zoological habitats," said Patricia Fair, PhD, lead author of the study and Research Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. "The immune system is incredibly complex and so very important for health. Microbes are part of the natural world and help to develop the immune system. The key to a healthy immune system is a balance between being able to recognize harmful organisms and overstimulation and this study demonstrates the importance of the environment in these responses." The study analyzed samples and data from four populations of dolphins: Dr. Gregory Bossart, a co-author on the study and Chief Veterinary Officer at Georgia Aquarium has been conducting routine health assessments with colleagues on more than 360 individual dolphins living in Indian River Lagoon and Charleston since 2003 as part of the Health and Environmental Risk Assessment Project (HERA). During that time, HERA researchers have recorded emerging infectious diseases, tumors, antibiotic resistant bacteria and alarmingly high levels of contaminants in dolphins from both wild populations. Because dolphins are high on the food chain, they bioaccumulate any toxins ingested by their prey. In the Indian River Lagoon, samples revealed high levels of mercury in the native dolphin population, which HERA researchers suggest could be impacting the health of local fishermen and residents. Not reflected in this current study, but previously published work by HERA researchers, details how these dolphins also exhibited cutaneous fungal disease associated with immune suppression as well as new, emerging viruses and infectious agents some of which are also potential human pathogens. Researchers studying the dolphin population near Charleston documented high levels of human-introduced organic chemicals likely introduced into the water from industrial and non-point sources. The study's findings suggest environmental stressors are having an impact on the immune responses of the wild dolphins, creating more chronically activated immune systems, which, in turn, could help explain why the health of wild dolphins in both populations is considered compromised with less than half found to be clinically normal. "Importantly, the chronic immune system activation as found in the wild dolphins of this study could lead to eventual immunologic dysregulation and the inability to eliminate chronic inflammation. In humans, this type of prolonged smoldering inflammation is associated with cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, and increased vulnerability to infectious disease," said Bossart. "These wild dolphins are trying to tell us something and we are not listening. As a sentinel species, dolphins are an important way to gauge the overall health of our oceans. If wild dolphins aren't doing well, it could also indicate future impacts to ocean health and even our own health." By contrast, dolphins living in managed care environments had less chronically activated immune systems, which Bossart suggests is not surprising. "Dolphins in human care are exposed to fewer pathogens because of environmental controls of water and food quality and preventative medical programs. Thus, their immune responses tend to be more focused and short acting. Our findings suggest that the wild dolphins of our study have immune systems that are chronically activated and challenged." "Georgia Aquarium's HERA Project will continue to look at the health of these two wild dolphin populations, and may grow to include additional populations," said Bossart. "We believe this work will open the doors to additional research on how the surrounding environment impacts the health and immune response of dolphins and other marine species. Explore further: Dolphin health is connected to human well-being


Soto E.,Ross University School of Medicine | Berliner A.,Georgia Aquarium Inc. | Clauss T.,Georgia Aquarium Inc. | Sanchez S.,University of Georgia
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms | Year: 2013

This report details 2 cases of epitheliocystis in spotted eagle rays Aetobatus narinari associated with a novel Chlamydiales 16S rDNA signature sequence. Epitheliocystis is a common disease of variable severity affecting >50 species of wild and cultured freshwater and marine teleosts. Disease in elasmobranchs is rarely reported and descriptions are limited. Occurring in gill and skin epithelium, lesions are characterized by large hypertrophied cells with basophilic inclusions containing Gram-negative, chlamydia-like bacteria. Acute lethargy, labored respiration, and abnormal swimming developed in a captive spotted eagle ray following an uneventful quarantine period, and mild epitheliocystis lesions were found microscopically. Three months later, a second animal exhibited similar signs. A gill clip revealed myriad spherical bodies identical to the previous case, and treatment with chloramphenicol and oxytetracycline was initiated. Despite therapy, respiration became irregular and euthanasia was elected. Histologically, epitheliocystis inclusions up to 200 μm filled approximately 80% of lamellar troughs. Multifocal mild hypertrophy and hyperplasia of lamellar tips was accompanied by mild to moderate infiltrates of granulocytes and lymphocytes. Electron microscopy revealed a homogeneous population of elongate chlamydia-like bacterial forms similar in size and morphology to the primary long cells described in teleosts. Immunohistochemical staining with a polyclonal anti-chlamydial lipopolysaccharide antibody was positive. Sequence analysis of a unique 296 bp Chlamydiales signature sequence amplicon isolated from the rays showed greatest homology (85 to 87%) to 'Candidatus Piscichlamydia salmonis'. © Inter-Research 2013.


Camus A.,University of Georgia | Dill J.,University of Georgia | McDermott A.,Georgia Aquarium Inc. | Camus M.,University of Georgia | And 2 more authors.
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms | Year: 2016

Although elasmobranch species are increasingly displayed in public aquaria, knowledge of disease in wild and captive elasmobranchs, as well as the agents involved, remains limited, and descriptions are often incomplete. This report describes papillomatous skin lesions in a juvenile giant guitarfish Rhynchobatus djiddensis associated with intranuclear viral particles. Skin biopsies were collected from multiple, friable, raised, villonodular skin lesions affecting pigmented and non-pigmented skin of the caudal fin and ventrum, respectively. Microscopic examination revealed papillary proliferation of the epidermis, with widespread marked karyomegaly of squamous epithelial cells. In approximately 75% of nuclei, chromatin was marginated by one to multiple, large, amphophilic inclusions. Large numbers of unencapsulated, 75 nm, icosahedral viral particles were observed to form large arrays in affected nuclei using transmission electron microscopy. Based on intranuclear location, particle size and morphology, a consensus nested-PCR for adenovirus polymerase was attempted. However, no adenoviral gene sequence was amplified. The nature of the involved virus remains unknown and an ongoing area of investigation. Lesions regressed completely over a 6 mo period, during which time the animal showed no signs of systemic illness, and there has been no recrudescence for 6 mo following resolution. Two cohorts of similar age and in close contact with the case animal were unaffected. © 2016 Inter-Research.


Buck C.B.,U.S. National Institutes of Health | Van Doorslaer K.,U.S. National Institutes of Health | Peretti A.,U.S. National Institutes of Health | Geoghegan E.M.,U.S. National Institutes of Health | And 20 more authors.
PLoS Pathogens | Year: 2016

Polyomaviruses are a family of DNA tumor viruses that are known to infect mammals and birds. To investigate the deeper evolutionary history of the family, we used a combination of viral metagenomics, bioinformatics, and structural modeling approaches to identify and characterize polyomavirus sequences associated with fish and arthropods. Analyses drawing upon the divergent new sequences indicate that polyomaviruses have been gradually co-evolving with their animal hosts for at least half a billion years. Phylogenetic analyses of individual polyomavirus genes suggest that some modern polyomavirus species arose after ancient recombination events involving distantly related polyomavirus lineages. The improved evolutionary model provides a useful platform for developing a more accurate taxonomic classification system for the viral family Polyomaviridae.


Marancik D.P.,University of Georgia | Dove A.D.,Georgia Aquarium Inc. | Camus A.C.,University of Georgia
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms | Year: 2012

Infestations of elasmobranchs by the marine leech Branchellion torpedinis can be problematic in aquaria and negatively affect host health. To better characterize the extent and pathogenesis of disease, 12 yellow stingrays Urobatis jamaicensis were infected with 1 or 3 leeches for 14 d. Leeches were associated with anorexia, extensive cutaneous ulceration, de - creased host packed cell volume (PCV) and serum total solids (TS), and mortality in 3 rays. Average decrease in host PCV positively correlated with ulcer size and parasite:host ratio. Average decrease in host serum TS positively correlated with parasite:host ratio. Blood chemistry and total white blood cell counts revealed no significant trends. Additional necropsy findings included gill and splenic pallor, pericardial edema, perirenal edema, and decreased hepatocellular lipid deposits. Microscopic evaluation of leeches demonstrated host erythrocytes and proteinaceous fluid within parasite intestines, confirming active blood feeding. Results indicate B. torpedinis has the potential to cause significant disease in elasmobranchs, including death in as few as 5 d, and identifies ulcer size and parasite:host ratio as risk factors for disease. Elucidation of this host-parasite interaction helps characterize host response to parasites and facilitate care of parasitized elasmobranchs in aquarium and wild settings. © Inter-Research 2012.


Salter C.E.,University of Georgia | O'Donnell K.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Sutton D.A.,University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio | Marancik D.P.,University of Georgia | And 4 more authors.
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms | Year: 2012

During a 4 mo epizootic, 100% of 152 lined seahorses Hippocampus erectus in 3 separate groups died while in quarantine following shipment to a public aquarium. Twelve animals with skin depigmentation and ulceration were received by the Aquatic Pathology Service, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA, for diagnostic evaluation. Microscopically, lesions in 11 seahorses included multifocal epithelial necrosis and ulceration associated with 2 to 7 μm diameter, branching, septate fungal hyphae, typically accompanied by deeper infiltration into underlying skeletal muscle. Angioinvasion, with vascular thrombosis and tissue infarction, was a prominent feature in multiple animals. Fungal invasion of one or more internal organs was observed in 4 animals. Hyphae appeared to course freely through tissues and elicited little or no inflammatory response. Fusariosis has been reported sporadically in fish and other aquatic organisms, but identification has often been limited to the genus level based solely on morphologic features. Morphologic characteristics of the fungus isolated from this case were consistent with the Fusarium solani species complex (FSSC), which includes over 50 members that can only be identified definitively using DNA sequence data. A 3-locus typing scheme identified the isolate as a distinct species/haplotype, designated FSSC 12-a, belonging to a specific lineage that appears adapted to aquatic environments and disease in marine animals. Empirical treatment with itraconazole failed to stop mortalities, and subsequent in vitro antifungal susceptibility data explained a lack of clinical efficacy for this agent. Effective treatment in human medicine has similarly been limited by poor susceptibility to several classes of antifungal compounds. © Inter-Research 2012.


Trademark
Georgia Aquarium Inc. | Date: 2012-05-30

decorative magnets; prerecorded CDs featuring the sound track from a live show at a public aquarium; prerecorded video discs featuring educational information on aquatic subjects and a documentary on the making of a public aquarium; mouse pads. flashlights. ornamental lapel pins; bracelets; necklaces; earrings. decals; postcards; bookmarks; lunch bags; and stationery sets consisting of stickers, pads, and pencils. all-purpose reusable carrying bags; backpacks. photograph frames; decorative non-metal clips for attaching lightweight items to metal surfaces. reusable plastic water bottles sold empty; aluminum water bottles sold empty; insulated containers for beverage cans for domestic use; drinking cups; drinking cups sold with lids therefor; shot glasses; mugs; foldable metallic water bottles sold empty; thermal insulated containers for beverages. clothing, namely, t-shirts; pajama bottoms; boxer shorts; baseball caps; sweat shirts; knit caps; cloth bibs; and sets comprised of a t-shirt and baseball cap. ornamental cloth patches. trail mix consisting primarily of processed nuts, seeds, dried fruit and also including chocolate. lollipops, chocolate bars, toffee, cookies, pretzels, gummy candies.


Trademark
Georgia Aquarium Inc. | Date: 2016-03-01

Ornamental lapel pins. Coloring books; postcards and greeting cards. All-purpose reusable carrying bags. Plastic key chains, picture and photograph frames. Water bottles sold empty. Graphic t-shirts. Stuffed toy animals. Entertainment services in the nature of personal appearances by a costumed mascot at special events and parties; entertainment services in the nature of a public aquarium; Photography services in the nature of photo booths.


PubMed | Blood Systems Research Institute, Georgia Aquarium Inc., University of Canterbury, U.S. National Institutes of Health and 2 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PLoS pathogens | Year: 2016

Polyomaviruses are a family of DNA tumor viruses that are known to infect mammals and birds. To investigate the deeper evolutionary history of the family, we used a combination of viral metagenomics, bioinformatics, and structural modeling approaches to identify and characterize polyomavirus sequences associated with fish and arthropods. Analyses drawing upon the divergent new sequences indicate that polyomaviruses have been gradually co-evolving with their animal hosts for at least half a billion years. Phylogenetic analyses of individual polyomavirus genes suggest that some modern polyomavirus species arose after ancient recombination events involving distantly related polyomavirus lineages. The improved evolutionary model provides a useful platform for developing a more accurate taxonomic classification system for the viral family Polyomaviridae.

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