The microscopic parasite Sarcocystis neurona poses a serious threat to sea otter health and conservation. Little is known as to why some sea otters infected with S. neurona die quickly after exposure, while others appear to experience little to no disease. To solve this problem, researchers will examine if infection with different strains of S. neurona leads to different disease severity in sea otters. The team will use this data to help develop an antibody test that they hope will be able to discriminate between exposure to strains that cause severe and benign infections in sea otters. Findings will fill in a knowledge gap on an important, but relatively understudied, cause of death in sea otters. The team hopes to identify factors that put sea otters at risk for deadly infection with S. neurona, and provide a valuable clinical tool to diagnose infections and better manage infected otters in rehabilitation facilities.
Grant amount awarded
University of California, Davis
Devinn M Sinnott, DVM, DACVP