Serologic survey for exposure to potential pathogens in ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata), spotted seals (Phoca largha), and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) in the Bering Sea

Heather L. Ziel, Tracey Goldstein, Paul B. Conn, Peter L. Boveng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Little is known about exposure to diseases or the health of ice-associated seals of the Bering Sea, which include ribbon (Histriophoca fasciata), spotted (Phoca largha), and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus). To assess exposure to several pathogens, ribbon and spotted seals were sampled from the pack ice of the Bering Sea, and bearded seals were sampled in Kotzebue Sound, Alaska. Serum was tested for antibodies against phocine herpesvirus-1 (PhHV-1), phocine distemper virus (PDV), influenza A, Brucella spp., Coxiella burnetii, Leptospira interrogans, Toxoplasma gondii, and Sarcocystis neurona. Spotted seals were positive for antibodies to PhHV-1 (76.6%), PDV (41.5%), influenza A (10.6%), Brucella spp. (9.5%), and Coxiella burnetii (8.3%); ribbon seals tested positive for PhHV-1 (9.5%), PDV (41.2%), influenza A (4.8%), and Coxiella burnetii (8.0%); and bearded seals tested positive for PhHV-1 (33.3%) and PDV (100%). All species were negative for antibodies to Leptospira interrogans, Toxoplasma gondii, and Sarcocystis neurona. Our study confirms that ice-associated seals in Alaska have been exposed to at least five pathogens, some of which could pose health concerns for indigenous Arctic communities. We recommend continued monitoring to identify human health concerns and to monitor changes in seal health that might be exacerbated by effects of climate warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMarine Mammal Science
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • baseline health
  • Bering Sea
  • changing environment
  • ice-associated seals
  • pathogen
  • serology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science

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