|Other names||spekkfinger (Norwegian); salrota (Baltic languages); salen i fingret ('in the Gulf of Finland')|
|Causes||Contact with seals or other pinnipeds|
|Treatment||Large doses of antibiotics, including tetracycline; previously amputation|
Seal finger, also known as sealer's finger and spekk-finger (from the Norwegian for "blubber"), is an infection that afflicts the fingers of seal hunters and other people who handle seals, as a result of bites or contact with exposed seal bones; it has also been contracted by exposure to untreated seal pelts. The State of Alaska Section of Epidemiology defines it as "a finger infection associated with bites, cuts, or scratches contaminated by the mouths, blood, or blubber of certain marine mammals".
It can cause cellulitis, joint inflammation, and swelling of the bone marrow; untreated, the course of "seal finger" is slow and results often in thickened contracted joint. Historically, seal finger was treated by amputation of the affected digits once they became unusable. It was first described scientifically in 1907.
The precise nature of the organism responsible for seal finger is unknown, as it has resisted culturing because most cases are promptly treated with antibiotics; however, as seal finger can be treated with tetracycline or similar antibiotics, the causative organism is most likely bacterial, or possibly fungal; in 1998, Baker, Ruoff, and Madoff showed that the organism is most likely a species of Mycoplasma called Mycoplasma phocacerebrale. This Mycoplasma was isolated in an epidemic of seal disease occurring in the Baltic Sea.
- White, Colin P.; Jewer, David D. (Winter 2009). "Seal finger: A case report and review of the literature". Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery. 17 (4): 133–5. doi:10.1177/229255030901700415. PMC 2827281. PMID 21119845.
- Seal Finger, from Alaska Science Forum (article #335), by T. Neil Davis; published August 24, 1979; archived at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; retrieved August 18, 2011
- Seal Finger - An enigma and a challenge; State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin #17; published August 5, 1983; retrieved August 18, 2011.
- Rodahl, Kåare (December 1952). ""Spekk-Finger" or Sealer's Finger" (PDF). Arctic. 5 (4): 235–40. JSTOR 40506548. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 August 2019. Retrieved 18 August 2011 – via the University of Calgary.
- Baker, Ann Sullivan; Ruoff, Kathryn L.; Madoff, Sarabelle (November 1998). "Isolation of Mycoplasma Species from a Patient with Seal Finger". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 27 (5): 1168–70. doi:10.1086/514980. JSTOR 4481672. PMID 9827264.
- Westley, Benjamin P.; Horazdovsky, Ryan D.; Michaels, Dina L.; Brown, Daniel R. (8 October 2015). "Identification of a Novel Mycoplasma Species in a Patient With Septic Arthritis of the Hip and Seal Finger". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 62 (4): 491–3. doi:10.1093/cid/civ875. PMID 26449564.