Bacteria may have caused dolphin abortions, deaths

A common bacteria known to cause abortions in marine mammals killed some of the hundreds of dolphins — more than 100 of them babies and fetuses — that have washed ashore in the northern Gulf of Mexico since February 2010, dolphin experts say.

What they don’t know is why a germ that has been found in healthy animals and that occasionally killed single animals is now apparently causing an animal epidemic and “abortion storms” like those caused by its land-based cousins.

The deaths are continuing, said Teri Rowles of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and Stephanie Venn-Watson, head of a group that has been studying the deaths.

The marine Brucella bacteria confirmed earlier this month in two adult dolphins and three fetuses may have become more lethal, or another infection or environmental stress — possibly caused by last year’s oil spill — may have hurt the dolphins’ ability to fight disease, they said.

“We cannot rule in or rule out a role for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or oil exposure or chemical contaminants or additional infectious diseases,” Rowles said during a teleconference Thursday.

Rest of article: MSNBC

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