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Seal finger, also known as sealer's finger and spekk-finger (from the Norwegian for "blubber"), 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. Historically, seal finger was treated by amputation of the afflicted 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. See also: Westley BP, Horazdovsky RD, Michaels DL, Brown DR.
- 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.
- "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
- 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.
- 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.