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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 142:105-118 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03536

Exposure of the Gulf of St. Lawrence grey seal Halichoerus grypus population to potentially zoonotic infectious agents

Caroline C. Sauvé1, Adrián Hernández-Ortiz2, Emily Jenkins2, Fabien Mavrot3, Angela Schneider3, Susan Kutz3, Jeremiah T. Saliki4,6, Pierre-Yves Daoust5,*

1Faculté de médecine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, Saint-Hyacinthe, QC J2S 2M2, Canada
2Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada
3Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 4Z6, Canada
4Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
5Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3, Canada
6Present address: Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The population of grey seals Halichoerus grypus in Canadian waters is currently used as a commercial source of meat for human consumption. As with domestic livestock, it is important to understand the occurrence in these seals of infectious agents that may be of public health significance and thus ensure appropriate measures are in place to avoid zoonotic transmission. This study examined the prevalence of antibodies against Brucella spp., Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, 6 serovars of Leptospira interrogans, and Toxoplasma gondii in 59 grey seals and determined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) the presence of these potentially zoonotic agents in specific organs and tissues of seropositive animals. The presence of encysted Trichinella spp. larvae was also investigated by digestion of tongue, diaphragm and other muscle samples, but none were detected. Seroprevalence against Brucella spp. and E. rhusiopathiae was low (5 and 3%, respectively). All 59 seals tested had antibodies against L. interrogans, but no carrier of this bacterium was detected by PCR. Seroprevalence against T. gondii was 53%, and DNA of this protozoan was detected by PCR in 11/30 (37%) seropositive animals. Standard sanitary measures mandatory for commercialization of meat products for human consumption should greatly reduce the potential for exposure to these infectious agents. However, special consideration should be given to freezing seal meat for at least 3 d to ensure destruction of tissue cysts of T. gondii.


KEY WORDS: Brucella · Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae · Grey seal · Halichoerus grypus · Leptospira interrogans · Toxoplasma gondii · Trichinella · Serology


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Cite this article as: Sauvé CC, Hernández-Ortiz A, Jenkins E, Mavrot F and others (2020) Exposure of the Gulf of St. Lawrence grey seal Halichoerus grypus population to potentially zoonotic infectious agents. Dis Aquat Org 142:105-118. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03536

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