A sea otter pokes its head and arms out of the water.
Image by Trina Wood, UC Davis.

Sea Otters Killed by Unusual Parasite Strain

Rare Form of Toxoplasma Infection Poses Threat to Marine Animals

Four sea otters that stranded in California died from an unusually severe form of toxoplasmosis, according to a study from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the University of California, Davis. The disease is caused by the microscopic parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Scientists warn that this rare strain, never previously reported in aquatic animals, could pose a health threat to other marine wildlife and humans.

The preliminary findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, note that toxoplasmosis is common in sea otters and can be fatal. This unusual strain appears to be especially virulent and capable of rapidly killing healthy adult otters.

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