DAO 126:1-12 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03153

Seroprevalence of Brucella antibodies in harbor seals in Alaska, USA, with age, regional, and reproductive comparisons

A. Hoover-Miller1,2,*, J. L. Dunn3, C. L. Field3, G. Blundell4, S. Atkinson2

1Alaska SeaLife Center, 301 Railway Ave, PO Box 1329, Seward, AK 99664, USA
2University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, 17101 Pt. Lena Loop, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
3Department of Research and Veterinary Services, Mystic Aquarium, 55 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, CT 06355, USA
4Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation, PO Box 110024, Juneau, AK 99811, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Populations of harbor seal Phoca vitulina in the Gulf of Alaska have dramatically declined during the past 4 decades. Numbers of seals in Glacier Bay, in southeast Alaska, USA, have also declined despite extensive protection. Causes of the declines and slow recovery are poorly understood. Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease that adversely affects reproduction in many domestic species. We measured the seroprevalence of Brucella antibodies in 554 harbor seals in 3 Alaska locations: Prince William Sound (PWS), Glacier Bay (GB), and Tracy Arm Fords Terror (TAFT) Wilderness Area. Objectives included testing for regional, sex, age, and female reproductive state differences in Brucella antibody seroprevalence, persistence in titers in recaptured seals, and differences in titers between mother seals and their pups. Overall, 52% of adults (AD), 53% of subadults (SA), 77% of yearlings (YRL), and 26% of <5 mo old pups were seropositive. Matched mother-pup samples were consistent with dependent pups acquiring maternal passive immunity to Brucella. Results show higher seroprevalence (64%) for AD and SA seals in the depressed and declining populations in PWS and GB than in TAFT (29%). Lactating females were less likely to be seropositive than other AD females, including pregnant females. Further research is needed to seek evidence of Brucella infection in Alaskan harbor seals, identify effects on neonatal viability, and assess zoonotic implications for Alaska Natives who rely on harbor seals for food.


KEY WORDS: Phoca vitulina · Brucella · Harbor seal · Seroprevalence · Reproduction · Alaska


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Cite this article as: Hoover-Miller A, Dunn JL, Field CL, Blundell G, Atkinson S (2017) Seroprevalence of Brucella antibodies in harbor seals in Alaska, USA, with age, regional, and reproductive comparisons. Dis Aquat Org 126:1-12. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03153

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