Evidence of Brucella infection in marine mammals in the North Atlantic Ocean

Vet Rec. 1999 May 22;144(21):588-92. doi: 10.1136/vr.144.21.588.


Between 1983 and 1996 a total of 1386 samples of serum were taken from four species of seal and three species of whale in the waters west of Iceland, the area of pack-ice north-west of Jan Mayen, the northern coast of Norway and the Kola Peninsula, the waters west of Svalbard, and the Barents Sea; they were tested for the presence of anti-Brucella antibodies with an indirect ELISA (protein G conjugate). The positive sera were re-tested with classical brucellosis serological tests, such as the serum agglutination test, the EDTA-modified serum agglutination test, the Rose Bengal test, and the complement fixation test, as well as an anti-complement ELISA. Anti-Brucella antibodies were detected in all the species investigated, except for the bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus), with the following prevalences: hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) 35 per cent; harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) 2 per cent; ringed seals (Phoca hispida) 10 per cent; minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) 8 per cent; fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) 11 per cent; and sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) 14 per cent. An isolate belonging to the genus Brucella was obtained from the liver and spleen of one of the seropositive minke whales. The findings suggest that antibodies against the surface lipopolysaccharide of Brucella species are widely distributed among marine mammals in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agglutination Tests
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood*
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Brucella / immunology
  • Brucella / isolation & purification*
  • Brucellosis / epidemiology
  • Brucellosis / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Seals, Earless*
  • Whales*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial