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1.  Cetacean morbillivirus in Northern and Southern Hemispheres 
doi:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00211
PMCID: PMC4019840  PMID: 24847322
Cetacean morbillivirus; stranded cetaceans; viral strains; virus-host interaction; aquatic mammals
2.  Dolphin Morbillivirus: a lethal but valuable infection model 
Dolphin Morbillivirus (DMV), which has caused at least four epidemics in the Western Mediterranean during the last 20–25 years, may dramatically impact the health and conservation of striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) living in this area. The viral and host factors driving the host–DMV interaction, along with those related to the climate change that underlie the occurrence of DMV epidemics, warrant further investigation.
doi:10.1038/emi.2013.74
PMCID: PMC3924555
3.  Dolphin Morbillivirus Infection in a Captive Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(2):708-711.
During the second morbillivirus epidemic (2007 to 2011) in cetaceans along the Italian coastline, dolphin morbillivirus (DMV) was detected by molecular analyses in a captive harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), with pathological findings consistent with morbillivirus infection. This report confirms interspecies DMV transmission from cetaceans to pinnipeds.
doi:10.1128/JCM.02710-12
PMCID: PMC3553930  PMID: 23224101
4.  Fetal and Early Post-Natal Mineralization of the Tympanic Bulla in Fin Whales May Reveal a Hitherto Undiscovered Evolutionary Trait 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37110.
The evolution of the cetacean skeleton followed a path that differentiated this group from other terrestrial mammals about 50 million years ago [1], and debate is still going on about the relationships between Cetacea and Artiodactyla [2], [3], [4]. Some skeletal traits of the basilosaurids (the more advanced forms of Archaeocetes), such as the expansion of the peribullary air sinuses, dental modification and vertebral size uniformity [5] are maintained and further emphasized also in contemporary odontocetes and mysticetes. Using Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry here we report that the deposition of bone mineral in fetal and newborn specimens of the fin whale Balaenoptera physalus is remarkably higher in the bulla tympanica than in the adjacent basal skull or in the rest of the skeleton. Ossification of the tympanic bulla in fetal Artiodactyla (bovine, hippopotamus) is minimal, becomes sensible after birth and then progresses during growth, contrarily to the precocious mineralization that we observed in fin whales. Given the importance of the ear bones for the precise identification of phylogenetic relationship in therian evolution [6], this feature may indicate a specific evolutionary trait of fin whales and possibly other cetacean species or families. Early mineralization of the tympanic bulla allows immediate sound conduction in the aquatic medium and consequently holds potential importance for mother-calf relationship and postnatal survival.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037110
PMCID: PMC3353891  PMID: 22615912
5.  Dolphin Morbillivirus and Toxoplasma gondii coinfection in a Mediterranean fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) 
Background
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-20
PMCID: PMC3319419  PMID: 22397492
Dolphin Morbillivirus; Toxoplasma gondii; Fin whale; DDT; Mediterranean Sea
6.  Methodology for in situ gas sampling, transport and laboratory analysis of gases from stranded cetaceans 
Scientific Reports  2011;1:193.
Gas-bubble lesions were described in cetaceans stranded in spatio-temporal concordance with naval exercises using high-powered sonars. A behaviourally induced decompression sickness-like disease was proposed as a plausible causal mechanism, although these findings remain scientifically controversial. Investigations into the constituents of the gas bubbles in suspected gas embolism cases are highly desirable. We have found that vacuum tubes, insulin syringes and an aspirometer are reliable tools for in situ gas sampling, storage and transportation without appreciable loss of gas and without compromising the accuracy of the analysis. Gas analysis is conducted by gas chromatography in the laboratory. This methodology was successfully applied to a mass stranding of sperm whales, to a beaked whale stranded in spatial and temporal association with military exercises and to a cetacean chronic gas embolism case. Results from the freshest animals confirmed that bubbles were relatively free of gases associated with putrefaction and consisted predominantly of nitrogen.
doi:10.1038/srep00193
PMCID: PMC3240978  PMID: 22355708
7.  Sometimes Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) Cannot Find Their Way Back to the High Seas: A Multidisciplinary Study on a Mass Stranding 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19417.
Background
Mass strandings of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) remain peculiar and rather unexplained events, which rarely occur in the Mediterranean Sea. Solar cycles and related changes in the geomagnetic field, variations in water temperature and weather conditions, coast geographical features and human activities have been proposed as possible causes. In December 2009, a pod of seven male sperm whales stranded along the Adriatic coast of Southern Italy. This is the sixth instance from 1555 in this basin.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Complete necropsies were performed on three whales whose bodies were in good condition, carrying out on sampled tissues histopathology, virology, bacteriology, parasitology, and screening of veins looking for gas emboli. Furthermore, samples for age determination, genetic studies, gastric content evaluation, stable isotopes and toxicology were taken from all the seven specimens.
The animals were part of the same group and determined by genetic and photo-identification to be part of the Mediterranean population. Causes of death did not include biological agents, or the “gas and fat embolic syndrome”, associated with direct sonar exposure. Environmental pollutant tissue concentrations were relatively high, in particular organochlorinated xenobiotics. Gastric content and morphologic tissue examinations showed a prolonged starvation, which likely caused, at its turn, the mobilization of lipophilic contaminants from the adipose tissue. Chemical compounds subsequently entered the blood circulation and may have impaired immune and nervous functions.
Conclusions/Significance
A multi-factorial cause underlying this sperm whales' mass stranding is proposed herein based upon the results of postmortem investigations as well as of the detailed analyses of the geographical and historical background. The seven sperm whales took the same “wrong way” into the Adriatic Sea, a potentially dangerous trap for Mediterranean sperm whales. Seismic surveys should be also regarded as potential co-factors, even if no evidence of direct impact has been detected.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019417
PMCID: PMC3097202  PMID: 21673789
8.  Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) infection in a leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) housed in a zoological park in north-eastern Italy 
Parasites & Vectors  2010;3:25.
Canine heartworm (cHW) disease is now recognised as potential cause of serious disease in cats and other felids, especially in endemic areas. In March 2009, a 23-years-old male African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) housed in a zoological park located in the Province of Padova (Veneto Region), a cHW endemic area of the north-eastern Italy, died and was immediately necropsied. A cloth completely occluding the pyloric lumen was considered the presumptive cause of death. During necropsy, six nematodes (4 males and 2 females) were found within the right ventricle of the heart and the pulmonary artery. Diagnosis of HW (Dirofilaria immitis) infection was carried out by morphological features of adult worms and microfilariae, and then confirmed by detection of circulating HW antigens using a commercial SNAP kit (IDEXX Laboratories inc., USA). D. immitis infection was also confirmed by PCR amplification of the 5S ribosomal spacer region, performed on worm fragments and microfilaraemic blood samples obtained from the right ventricle of the heart. A glomerulonephritis of immuno-mediated origin and most likely associated with the HW infection is also reported. HW chemoprophylaxis and annual serological testing on wild felids housed outdoors in endemic cHW disease areas are recommended. This is the first diagnosis of D. immitis infection in an exotic felid in Italy.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-3-25
PMCID: PMC2858128  PMID: 20377859
9.  Effects of electromagnetic fields of low frequency and low intensity on rat metabolism 
A series of experiments on rats have been performed, to study the effects of long time (50 days) exposure to electromagnetic fields of extremely low frequency (ELF, i.e. less than 100 Hz) and amplitude (non thermal), testing whether the metabolic processes would be affected. The background lies on recent observations on the behaviour of isolated enzymes in vitro exposed to EFL fields. In these experiments, the cyclotron (or Larmor) frequency of the metallic ion has been used to "stimulate" the metalloproteins redox-active site, thus obtaining a clear variation of the enzyme functionality. In this paper we have extended for the first time the check to more complex animal metabolism. The novelty of this approach implies that a large amount of data had to be analyzed since it was not possible, in principle, to select only a few parameters among all the potential effects. Several biochemical parameters have been evaluated by comparing their values during the periods of exposure (field ON) and non exposure (field OFF). The evidence that long term exposure to electromagnetic fields with a well defined frequency may have relevant effects on parameters such as body weight, blood glucose and fatty acid metabolism has been obtained.
doi:10.1186/1477-044X-6-3
PMCID: PMC2362112  PMID: 18380892

Results 1-9 (9)