Infectious disease monitoring of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal

J Wildl Dis. 2007 Apr;43(2):229-41. doi: 10.7589/0090-3558-43.2.229.


As part of conservation efforts between 1997 and 2001, more than 25% (332 animals) of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) population was sampled in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Serum samples were tested for antibodies to viruses, bacteria, and parasites known to cause morbidity and mortality in other marine mammal species. Antibodies were found to phocine herpesvirus-1 by using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, but seropositive results were not confirmed by virus neutralization test. Antibodies to Leptospira bratislava, L. hardjo, L. icterohaemorrhagiae, and L. pomona were detected in seals from several sites with the microagglutination test. Antibodies to Brucella spp. were detected using 10 conventional serologic tests, but because of inconsistencies in test results and laboratories used, and the lack of validation by culture, the Brucella serology should be interpreted with caution. Antibodies to B. canis were not detected by card test. Chlamydophila abortus antibodies were detected by complement fixation (CF) test, and prevalence increased significantly as a function of age; the low sensitivity and specificity associated with the CF make interpretation of results difficult. Antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii and Dirofilaria immitis were rarely found. There was no serologic evidence of exposure to four morbilliviruses, influenza A virus, canine adenovirus, caliciviruses, or other selected viruses. Continuous surveillance provides a means to detect the introduction or emergence of these or other infectious diseases, but it is dependent on the development or improvement of diagnostic tools. Continued and improved surveillance are both needed as part of future conservation efforts of Hawaiian monk seals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Brucella abortus / immunology
  • Brucellosis / epidemiology
  • Brucellosis / veterinary
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases / veterinary*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Disease Reservoirs / veterinary
  • Hawaii
  • Herpesviridae Infections / epidemiology
  • Herpesviridae Infections / veterinary
  • Leptospira / immunology
  • Leptospirosis / epidemiology
  • Leptospirosis / veterinary
  • Seals, Earless* / microbiology
  • Seals, Earless* / parasitology
  • Seals, Earless* / virology
  • Sentinel Surveillance / veterinary*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Toxoplasma / immunology
  • Toxoplasmosis, Animal / epidemiology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antibodies, Viral