Brucellosis is an important zoonotic disease usually associated with cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. In 1994 Brucella sp. was isolated from four common seals (Phoca vitulina), two harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and one common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) in Scotland and a captive bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in the USA. These isolates were found to be morphologically and molecularly different to the terrestrial strains and have been proposed the names Brucella maris or B. cetacea and B. pinnipedia on host specificity.
There is serological evidence of brucellosis in marine mammal sp. around the world however isolation of the organism has only occurred in the northern hemisphere. Brucella maris has been shown to be zoonotic by four reported cases of infection in humans. The first human case was reported in 1999, a laboratory acquired infection in the UK, a further three cases have occurred as natural causes of infection--believed to be linked with the consumption of raw sea food.
The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) has been involved in the examination of marine mammals both serologically and with the culture and molecular typing of Brucella isolated from various tissues. Since the first isolations in 1994 VLA has tested 150 isolations from a variety of marine mammals, primarily from British waters, but also isolates from USA, Canada and Northern Europe. We have tested over 3900 serological samples from around the world, both captive and wild animals, by three ELISAs.
This talk summarises brucellosis in marine mammals and shows the results obtained from work done at the VLA.