Polyomavirus is known to cause disease in birds, but in mammals it is usually mild or subclinical, explains lead author Simon Anthony, PhD, a researcher in the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School. "It is therefore interesting that this particular polyomavirus appears to be what killed this dolphin. It's no immediate cause for alarm, but it's an important data point in understanding this family of viruses and the diseases they cause."
This discovery will help prepare scientists for future disease outbreaks and could even be useful in solving past unsolved cases. "There are many cases of disease in animals that we never have solved," says Dr. Anthony. When we make a new discovery like this, it allows us to ask, Have we seen it before? Will we see it again?"