To compare serum cardiac troponin I (cTnI) concentrations between sea otters with and without cardiomyopathy and describe 2 cases of cardiomyopathy with different etiologies.
25 free-ranging southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) with (n = 14; cases) and without (11; controls) cardiomyopathy and 17 healthy managed southern sea otters from aquariums or rehabilitation centers (controls).
Serum cTnI concentration was measured in live sea otters. Histopathologic and gross necropsy findings were used to classify cardiomyopathy status in free-ranging otters; physical examination and echocardiography were used to assess health status of managed otters. Two otters received extensive medical evaluations under managed care, including diagnostic imaging, serial cTnI concentration measurement, and necropsy.
A significant difference in cTnI concentrations was observed between cases and both control groups, with median values of 0.279 ng/mL for cases and < 0.006 ng/mL for free-ranging and managed controls. A cutoff value of ≥ 0.037 ng/mL yielded respective sensitivity and specificity estimates for detection of cardiomyopathy of 64.3% and 90.9% for free-ranging cases versus free-ranging controls and 64.3% and 94.1% for free-ranging cases versus managed controls.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE
Cardiomyopathy is a common cause of sea otter death that has been associated with domoic acid exposure and protozoal infection. Antemortem diagnostic tests are needed to identify cardiac damage. Results suggested that serum cTnI concentration has promise as a biomarker for detection of cardiomyopathy in sea otters. Serial cTnI concentration measurements and diagnostic imaging are recommended to improve heart disease diagnosis in managed care settings.