This study describes a syndrome of neonatal septicemia and meningitis in New Zealand sea lions, caused by a strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae that is phenotypically similar to strains causing environmentally-acquired septicemia and neuro-invasive disease in humans. Between late 2006 and early 2010, 123 pups from the Enderby Island breeding colony died of K. pneumoniae infection, with lesions including fibrinous to fibrinosuppurative meningitis, subdural hemorrhage, septic arthritis, herniation and hemorrhage of the cerebellar vermis, lymphadenitis and cellulitis. This infection was responsible for 58% of observed pup mortality over this time period, with most deaths occurring in the latter part of the breeding season (mid February onwards). The results of this study suggest that the pattern of this disease has changed since it was first described in 2002, when most deaths occurred early in the season (early to mid-January), and that it is an important and consistent cause of pup mortality in this population. In addition, a similar disease syndrome and bacterial strain was diagnosed in a single pup in a fragile recolonizing New Zealand sea lion population on mainland New Zealand, and the potential effect on this population is unknown but could have a negative impact on recolonisation at this site.
Keywords: Hypermucoviscous; Klebsiella pneumoniae; Meningitis; Neonatal septicaemia; Pinniped.
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