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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 102:73-85 (2012)  -  DOI:

Serologic response in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus infected with Brucella sp. using a dolphin-specific indirect ELISA

Jenny Meegan1,2,*, J. Lawrence Dunn2, Stephanie K. Venn-Watson1, Cynthia R. Smith1, Inga Sidor2,3, Eric D. Jensen4, William G. Van Bonn5, Roberta Pugh6, Thomas Ficht6, L. Garry Adams6, Klaus Nielsen7,**, Tracy A. Romano

1National Marine Mammal Foundation, 2240 Shelter Island Dr. Suite 200, San Diego, California 92106, USA
2Mystic Aquarium, A Division of Sea Research Foundation Inc., 55 Cogan Blvd., Mystic, Connecticut 06355, USA
3University of New Hampshire, Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences, 129 Main Street, Durham, New Hampshire 03824, USA
4US Navy Marine Mammal Program, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, 49620 Beluga Road, San Diego, California 92152, USA
5The Marine Mammal Center, 2000 Bunker Road, Sausalito, California, 94965, USA
6Texas A&M University, Department of Pathobiology, Veterinary Research Building, Bldg. 1197, Room 141, College Station, Texas 77843, USA
7Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Animal Diseases Research Institute, 3851 Fallowfield Road, Nepean, Ontario, Canada

ABSTRACT: Marine-origin Brucella infections and serologic evidence of exposure have been documented in multiple cetacean species. A dolphin-specific indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed to screen bottlenose dolphin sera for anti-Brucella antibodies. A total of 131 serum samples collected over a 2 to 18 yr period from 6 bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus with confirmed Brucella infections were analyzed for the presence and magnitude of antibody titers against marine-origin Brucella to compare individual antibody responses to various disease manifestations. Additionally, an epidemiologic serologic survey of a managed population of 64 bottlenose dolphins was performed to evaluate for the presence of antibodies and to determine whether there were any clinical pathology predictors for exposure or infection. The serologic results revealed that the dolphins with Brucella-associated abortions were seronegative for 7 to 18 yr until after the abortion and maintained positive titers for several years, with 2 of 3 animals returning to seronegative status. In contrast, the dolphins with Brucella-associated pulmonary or bone lesions maintained persistent positive titers for 2 to 18 yr. The population serosurvey revealed no significant differences in antibody levels among males and females, and dolphins between the ages of 17 and 25 yr were 6.8 times more likely to be Brucella antibody positive compared to those that were younger or older. Seropositive dolphins did not have significant inflammation compared to seronegative dolphins but were more likely to have higher levels of aspartate aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase. Among 16 dolphins that tested seropositive, 13 (81.3%) had previously been seropositive for at least 3 to 5 yr.

KEY WORDS: Cetacean · Immunology · Serology · Marine mammal · Antibody · Infectious disease

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Cite this article as: Meegan J, Dunn JL, Venn-Watson SK, Smith CR and others (2012) Serologic response in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus infected with Brucella sp. using a dolphin-specific indirect ELISA. Dis Aquat Org 102:73-85.

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