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Mammals (other)
Mycotic encephalitis in a grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) pup associated with Rhizomucor pusillus infection
  1. James Barnett1,2,
  2. Paul Riley3,
  3. Tamara Cooper4,
  4. Christopher Linton5 and
  5. Mark Wessels6,7
  1. 1Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Truro, Cornwall, UK
  2. 2Environment and Sustainability Institute, Penryn, Cornwall, UK
  3. 3Head and Head Veterinary Surgeons Ltd., Helston, Cornwall, UK
  4. 4Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Helston, Cornwall, UK
  5. 5Mycology Reference Laboratory, Bristol, UK
  6. 6Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Preston, Lancashire, UK
  7. 7Finn Pathologists, Diss, Norfolk, UK
  1. Correspondence to James Barnett, jamesbarnettvet{at}


A three-month-old grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), admitted to a rehabilitation facility with severe gingivitis and minor trauma, developed neurological signs 36 hours after arrival, including loss of swallowing reflex, muscle tremors and a poor response to stimuli. The animal was euthanased due to the poor prognosis. Initial gross postmortem findings were unremarkable, but coronal slicing of the brain found a focal extensive area of red/brown discolouration within the right thalamic region. On histological examination, subacute, neutrophilic and histiocytic, leucocytoclastic, necrotising cerebral vasculitis, encephalitis and meningitis was present, with intralesional fungal hyphae with morphology suggestive of a zygomycete. PCR sequences of fungal DNA purified from digested paraffin sections of the brain matched best those for Rhizomucor pusillus (99 per cent homology) demonstrating the value of this technique in speciating fungi. This is believed to be the first published case of CNS infection in a pinniped with a zygomycete fungus.

  • Seals
  • Pathology
  • Fungal diseases
  • PCR
  • Rehabilitation
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