Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Killer whale falls victim to aspergillosis

A killer whale (in captivity) undergoing rehabilitation after suffering severe weight loss and anorexia was treated with anti herpes - virus drugs as it was diagnosed with a herpes infection. It showed considerable improvement but then sudden anorexia reappeared and the whale died. When examined under postmortem the lungs and skeletal and cardiac muscle showed necrotic areas. More detailed microscopic findings showed widespread fungal granulomas in both skeletal and cardiac muscles, also myocarditis was observed and cardiac blood vessels had fungal related embolism. The whale also had bronchopneumonia with the presence of Aspergillus-like fungi.

 PAS, GMS and silver staining confirmed mucor like structures in the heart muscle and Aspergillus in the lungs. It appears that the whale had a dual infection of Mucor and Aspergillus sp whilst suffering from herpesvirus. Mycoses in marine mammals are rare but Aspergillus fumigatus and more rarely A.niger and A.terreus are the best known causes of fungal pneumonia in marine mammals. Sadly in this case the initial infection with herpesvirus has led to a widespread infection with mucor and Aspergillus sp, affecting the heart muscle and leading to the animal's death. View article

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