Seal finger

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Seal finger, also known as sealer's finger and spekk-finger (from the Norwegian for "blubber"),[1] is an infection that afflicts the fingers of sealers and other people who handle pinnipeds, as a result of bites or contact with exposed seal bones; it has also been contracted by exposure to untreated seal pelts. It can cause cellulitis, debilitating joint inflammation, and edema of the bone marrow; untreated, the course of "seal finger" is slow and results often in thickened contracted joint.[2] Historically, seal finger was treated by amputation of the afflicted digits once they became unusable. It was first described scientifically in 1907.[3]

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;[2] 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[4] 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. See also: Westley BP, Horazdovsky RD, Michaels DL, Brown DR.[5]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b Seal Finger - An enigma and a challenge; State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin #17; published August 5, 1983; retrieved August 18, 2011.
  3. ^ "Spekk-Finger" or Sealer's Finger, by Kaare Rodahl, from Arctic, vol. 5, no. 4 (December 1952), p. 235-240; archived at the University of Calgary; retrieved August 18, 2011
  4. ^ Baker, Ann Sullivan; Ruoff, Kathryn L.; Madoff, Sarabelle (1998). "Isolation of Mycoplasma Species from a Patient with Seal Finger". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 27 (5): 1168–70. doi:10.1086/514980. PMID 9827264. 
  5. ^ Westley, BP; Horazdovsky, RD; Michaels, DL; Brown, DR (2015). "Identification of a Novel Mycoplasma Species in a Patient With Septic Arthritis of the Hip and Seal Finger.". Clinical Infectious Diseases: civ875. doi:10.1093/cid/civ875. PMID 26449564. 

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