Samples (blood or tissue fluid) from 594 arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus), 390 Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus), 361 sibling voles (Microtus rossiaemeridionalis), 17 walruses (Odobenus rosmarus), 149 barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis), 58 kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), and 27 glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreus) from Svalbard and nearby waters were assayed for antibodies against Toxoplasma gondii using a direct agglutination test. The proportion of seropositive animals was 43% in arctic foxes, 7% in barnacle geese, and 6% (1 of 17) in walruses. There were no seropositive Svalbard reindeer, sibling voles, glaucous gulls, or kittiwakes. The prevalence in the arctic fox was relatively high compared to previous reports from canid populations. There are no wild felids in Svalbard and domestic cats are prohibited, and the absence of antibodies against T. gondii among the herbivorous Svalbard reindeer and voles indicates that transmission of the parasite by oocysts is not likely to be an important mechanism in the Svalbard ecosystem. Our results suggest that migratory birds, such as the barnacle goose, may be the most important vectors bringing the parasite to Svalbard. In addition to transmission through infected prey and carrion, the age-seroprevalence profile in the fox population suggests that their infection levels are enhanced by vertical transmission.
This study tested whether the immune system of the glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus) chicks became affected by existing environmental contaminants. An experimental group was given food that mimicked the natural contaminant mixture found in food from the North Atlantic marine environment, while the control group was given the equivalent of nearly clean food. All chicks were immunized with herpes virus (EHV), reovirus (REO), influenza virus (EIV), and tetanus toxoid (TET) in order to test their ability to respond to foreign specific antigens. At 8 wk, the experimental group had 3- to 13-fold higher concentrations of hexachlorobenzene (HCB), oxychlordane, p,p'-DDE, and total polychlorinated biphenyls (Sigma PCB) than did the control. The experimental group produced significantly lower antibody titer against EIV and had lower concentrations of immunoglobulin-G (IgG) and -M (IgM) in blood. Hematocrit percent and leukocyte numbers did not differ between the two groups. The ability of lymphocytes to proliferate in vitro was tested with three mitogens, phytohemagglutinin (PHA), concanavalin A (Con A), and pokeweed mitogen (PWM), and three antigens, keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), TET, and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD). The experimental group had a significantly higher peripheral blood lymphocyte response to PHA and to spleen lymphocytes in vitro stimulated with Con A and PCB congeners 99 or 153, while the Con A, PWM, KLH, TET, PPD, and Con A plus PCB-156 or -126 showed nonsignificant differences between groups. Data indicate that the combined effect of multiple persistent organic pollution exposures occurring naturally in the Arctic negatively affect the immune system of the glaucous gull chick.