Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Exposure of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) to Brucella in declining populations across Scotland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Open Access permissions

Open

Author(s)

Joanna Louise Kershaw, Emma J. Stubberfield, Geoffrey Foster, Andrew Brownlow, Ailsa Jane Hall, Lorraine L. Perrett

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Since 2000 there have been major declines in the abundance of Scottish harbour seals (Phoca vitulina). The causes of the declines remain uncertain. The aim of this study was to establish the extent to which the seals in the regions of greatest decline have been exposed to Brucella, a bacterial pathogen that causes reproductive failure in terrestrial mammalian hosts. Tissues from dead seals collected between 1992 and 2013 were cultured for Brucella (n=150). Serum samples collected from live capture-released seals (n=343) between 1997 and 2012 were tested for Brucella antibodies using the Rose Bengal plate agglutination test (RBT) and a competitive Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). 16% of seals cultured had Brucella isolated from one or more tissues but there were no pathological signs of infection. The cELISA results were more sensitive than the RBT results showing that overall, 25.4% of seals were seropositive with the highest seroprevalence in juveniles. As there was no evidence of either a higher seroprevalence, or higher circulating antibody levels in seropositive animals in the areas with the greatest declines, it was concluded that Brucella infection is likely not a major contributing factor to recent declines. However, the consistently high proportion of seals exposed to Brucella indicates possible endemicity in these populations, likely due to B. pinnipedialis, which has demonstrated a preference for pinniped hosts. Importantly, given the close proximity between seals, humans and livestock in many areas, there is the potential for cross-species infections.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-23
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Volume126
Issue number1
Early online date20 Sep 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sep 2017

    Research areas

  • Pinnipeds, Brucella, Disease, Cultures, Seroprevalence, Antibodies, ELISA, Rose Bengal plate agglutination test

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Mercury in cetaceans: exposure, bioaccumulation and toxicity

    Kershaw, J. & Hall, A., 30 Jul 2019, In : Science of the Total Environment. 694, p. 1-11 11 p., 133683.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  2. Age–length relationships in UK harbour seals during a period of population decline

    Hall, A. J., Mackey, B., Kershaw, J. L. & Thompson, P., 6 Sep 2019, In : Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 29, S1, p. 61-70 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Investigating decadal changes in persistent organic pollutants in Scottish grey seal pups

    Robinson, K. J., Hall, A. J., Scholl, G., Debier, C., Thomé, J-P., Eppe, G., Adam, C. & Bennett, K. A., 6 Sep 2019, In : Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 29, S1, p. 86-100 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Assessing cetacean body condition: is total lipid content in blubber biopsies a useful monitoring tool?

    Kershaw, J. L., Brownlow, A., Ramp, C. A., Miller, P. J. O. & Hall, A. J., 6 Sep 2019, In : Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 29, S1, p. 271-282 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Shining new light on mammalian diving physiology using wearable near-infrared spectroscopy

    McKnight, J. C., Bennett, K., Bronkhorst, M., Russell, D. JF., Balfour, S., Milne, R., Bivins, M., Moss, S. E. W., Colier, W., Hall, A. J. & Thompson, D., 18 Jun 2019, In : PLoS Biology. 17, 6, 20 p., e3000306.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Phylogenomic insights to the origin and spread of phocine distemper virus in European harbour seals in 1988 and 2002

    Stokholm, I., Härkönen, T., Harding, K. C., Siebert, U., Lehnert, K., Dietz, R., Teilmann, J., Galatius, A., Havmøller, L. W., Carroll, E. L., Hall, A. & Olsen, M. T., 21 Feb 2019, In : Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 133, 1, p. 47-56 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Surveillance for zoonotic and selected pathogens in harbor seals Phoca vitulina from central California

    Greig, D. J., Gulland, F. M. D., Smith, W. A., Conrad, P. A., Field, C. L., Fleetwood, M., Harvey, J. T., Ip, H. S., Jang, S., Packham, A., Wheeler, E. & Hall, A. J., 30 Sep 2014, In : Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 111, 2, p. 93-106 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Brucella antibody seroprevalence in Antarctic seals (Arctocephalus gazella, Leptonychotes weddellii and Mirounga leonina)

    Jensen, S-K., Nymo, I. H., Forcada, J., Hall, A. & Godfroid, J., 3 Sep 2013, In : Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 105, 3, p. 175-181 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Comparison of the 1988 and 2002 phocine distemper epizootics in British harbour seal Phoca vitulina populations

    Lonergan, M., Hall, A., Thompson, H., Thompson, P. M., Pomeroy, P. & Harwood, J., 17 Feb 2010, In : Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 88, 3, p. 183-188 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 250727568

Top