A previously unidentified morbillivirus was isolated from two harbour porpoises () that had died in the Dutch Waddensea (North Sea) in 1990. This porpoise morbillivirus (PMV) and a dolphin morbillivirus (DMV), which had recently caused a heavy mortality in Mediterranean striped dolphins (), were compared antigenically with other members of the genus , including the newly recognized phocine distemper virus type 1. DMV and PMV proved to be similar but distinct morbilliviruses, closely related to rinderpest virus and peste-des-petits-ruminants virus. Cell cultures of cetacean, pinniped, ruminant and canine origin showed a different pattern of susceptibility to DMV and PMV infection. Ruminants and dogs proved to be susceptible to experimental infection with DMV and PMV, which both caused a transient leukopenia most pronounced in the ruminants. Pre-exposure of dogs to DMV and PMV protected them from developing CDV viraemia and clinical signs upon challenge infection with virulent CDV. A serological survey among stranded animals of different cetacean species in Europe indicated that infections with DMV- and PMV-like morbilliviruses are not uncommon among these aquatic mammals.


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