Plasmatic coagulation and fibrinolysis in healthy and Otostrongylus-affected Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris)

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Prepatent Otostrongylus arteritis results in hemorrhagic diathesis in free-ranging Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) attributed to aberrant larval migration of the lungworm, Otostrongylus circumlitus. Clinical signs are often nonspecific, including lethargy, anorexia, and blepharospasm, but can progress to spontaneous frank hemorrhage and death within 72 hours of onset. Previously published case reports describe coagulopathy with prolonged PT and APTT, normal to elevated platelet counts, normal antithrombin concentrations, and low concentrations of fibrinogen degradation products. Disseminated intravascular coagulation was proposed as the cause of hemorrhage, but is inconsistent with some of the reported clinicopathologic changes.


The purpose of this study was to compare plasmatic coagulation and fibrinolysis in healthy and Otostrongylus-affected elephant seals, in order to identify potential therapy. We hypothesized that hyperfibrinolysis contributed to hemorrhage in these cases.


Citrated plasma samples were collected from 3- to 4-month-old Northern elephant seals in a wildlife rehabilitation hospital. The sampled population included 25 healthy, prerelease seals and 32 clinically ill seals diagnosed with presumptive Otostrongylus arteritis. Twenty-one of the included seals had Otostrongylus infestation confirmed at necropsy. Standard coagulation tests and plasma thromboelastography were performed for a complete assessment of coagulation and fibrinolysis.


Northern elephant seals with definitive Otostrongylus infestation were hypocoagulable and hypofibrinolytic compared to healthy controls.


Results were most consistent with disseminated intravascular coagulation. Treatment with antifibrinolytic drugs to control hemorrhage may be unrewarding; alternative therapies such as plasma transfusions or coagulation factor concentrates should be investigated.

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