Valvular endocarditis has been well described in northern sea otters Enhydra lutris kenyoni of Alaska and in many cases no cause has been identified. It is also one of the most common conditions observed in people with chronic Coxiella burnetii infection. Given the high levels of C. burnetii exposure in marine mammals distributed throughout the same geographic range as the northern sea otter, and the presence of valvular lesions seen in otters, the objective of this study was to determine the level of C. burnetii exposure in otters and investigate any association between exposure, infection and valvular disease in this species. Archived serum from 75 live captured, apparently healthy otters (25 from each of 3 stocks) and 30 dead otters were tested for C. burnetii antibodies by indirect florescent antibody assay (IFA). Archived bone marrow and heart valves were tested for C. burnetii DNA by real-time PCR (qPCR). Overall, the seroprevalence in live otters was 17%, with significantly more exposed animals in the south central (40%) stock relative to the southwest (8%) and southeast (4%). The seroprevalence of animals sampled post mortem was 27%, although none of the bone marrow or heart valve samples were positive by qPCR. Results of this study failed to demonstrate a significant association between C. burnetii infection and valvular endocarditis in sea otters; however, the differing seroprevalence suggests that exposure opportunities vary geographically.
The decline in the number of northern fur seal (NFS; Callorhinus ursinus) pups on St. Paul Island, Alaska, has led to multidisciplinary research, including investigation into issues of reproductive health and success. Given the recent identification of Coxiella burnetii in the placenta of two other marine mammal species, NFS placentas were collected from Reef rookery on St. Paul Island, Alaska, during the 2010 pupping season, examined histologically, and tested for C. burnetii using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Of 146 placentas examined, gram-negative intratrophoblastic bacteria that were positive for C. burnetii on immunohistochemistry were observed in 5 (3%) placentas. Placental infection was usually devoid of associated inflammation or significant ancillary pathology. One hundred nine (75%) of the placentas were positive for C. burnetii on PCR. C. burnetii is globally distributed and persists for long periods in the environment, providing ample opportunity for exposure of many species. The significance of this finding for the declining fur seal population, potential human exposure and infection, and impact on other sympatric marine mammal or terrestrial species is unclear; further investigation into the epidemiology of Coxiella in the marine ecosystem is warranted.
1 Arctic Investigations Program, Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Anchorage, Alaska.
Due to their close relationship with the environment, Alaskans are at risk for zoonotic pathogen infection. One way to assess a population's disease burden is to determine the seroprevalence of pathogens of interest. The objective of this study was to determine the seroprevalence of 11 zoonotic pathogens in people living in Alaska.
In a 2007 avian influenza exposure study, we recruited persons with varying wild bird exposures. Using sera from this study, we tested for antibodies to Cryptosporidium spp., Echinococcus spp., Giardia intestinalis, Toxoplasma gondii, Trichinella spp., Brucella spp., Coxiella burnetii, Francisella tularensis, California serogroup bunyaviruses, and hepatitis E virus (HEV).
Eight hundred eighty-seven persons had sera tested, including 454 subsistence bird hunters and family members, 160 sport bird hunters, 77 avian wildlife biologists, and 196 persons with no wild bird exposure. A subset (n?=?481) of sera was tested for California serogroup bunyaviruses. We detected antibodies to 10/11 pathogens. Seropositivity to Cryptosporidium spp. (29%), California serotype bunyaviruses (27%), and G. intestinalis (19%) was the most common; 63% (301/481) of sera had antibodies to at least one pathogen. Using a multivariable logistic regression model, Cryptosporidium spp. seropositivity was higher in females (35.7% vs. 25.0%; p?=?0.01) and G. intestinalis seropositivity was higher in males (21.8% vs. 15.5%; p?=?0.02). Alaska Native persons were more likely than non-Native persons to be seropositive to C. burnetii (11.7% vs. 3.8%; p?=?0.005) and less likely to be seropositive to HEV (0.4% vs. 4.1%; p?=?0.01). Seropositivity to Cryptosporidium spp., C. burnetii, HEV, and Echinococcus granulosus was associated with increasing age (p?=?0.01 for all) as was seropositivity to =1 pathogen (p?