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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 114:83-87 (2015)  -  DOI:

Coxiella burnetii exposure in northern sea otters Enhydra lutris kenyoni

Colleen Duncan1,*, Verena A. Gill2,3, Kristin Worman3, Kathy Burek-Huntington4, Kristy L. Pabilonia1, Sam Johnson1, Kelly A. Fitzpatrick5, Christina Weller1, Gilbert J. Kersh

1Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, Colorado State University, Diagnostic Medicine Center, 300 West Drake Avenue, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA
2Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 3801 Centerpoint Drive, Suite 500, Anchorage, Alaska 99503, USA
3US Fish & Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management, 1011 E. Tudor Road, MS 341, Anchorage, Alaska 99503, USA
4Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services, 23834 The Clearing Dr., Eagle River, Alaska 99577, USA
5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch, Building 18, Room SSB 221, 1600 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, Georga 30333, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Valvular endocarditis has been well described in northern sea otters Enhydra lutris kenyoni of Alaska and in many cases no cause has been identified. It is also one of the most common conditions observed in people with chronic Coxiella burnetii infection. Given the high levels of C. burnetii exposure in marine mammals distributed throughout the same geographic range as the northern sea otter, and the presence of valvular lesions seen in otters, the objective of this study was to determine the level of C. burnetii exposure in otters and investigate any association between exposure, infection and valvular disease in this species. Archived serum from 75 live captured, apparently healthy otters (25 from each of 3 stocks) and 30 dead otters were tested for C. burnetii antibodies by indirect florescent antibody assay (IFA). Archived bone marrow and heart valves were tested for C. burnetii DNA by real-time PCR (qPCR). Overall, the seroprevalence in live otters was 17%, with significantly more exposed animals in the south central (40%) stock relative to the southwest (8%) and southeast (4%). The seroprevalence of animals sampled post mortem was 27%, although none of the bone marrow or heart valve samples were positive by qPCR. Results of this study failed to demonstrate a significant association between C. burnetii infection and valvular endocarditis in sea otters; however, the differing seroprevalence suggests that exposure opportunities vary geographically.

KEY WORDS: Northern sea otters · Enhydra lutris kenyoni · Coxiella burnetii

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Cite this article as: Duncan C, Gill VA, Worman K, Burek-Huntington K and others (2015) Coxiella burnetii exposure in northern sea otters Enhydra lutris kenyoni. Dis Aquat Org 114:83-87.

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