Infection with Brucella spp., long known as a cause of abortion, infertility, and reproductive loss in domestic livestock, has increasingly been documented in marine mammals over the past two decades. We report molecular evidence of Brucella infection in Asian sea otters (Enhydra lutris lutris). Brucella DNA was detected in 3 of 78 (4%) rectal swab samples collected between 2004 and 2006 on Bering Island, Russia. These 78 animals had previously been documented to have a Brucella seroprevalence of 28%, markedly higher than the prevalence documented in sea otters (Enhydra lutris) in North America. All of the DNA sequences amplified were identical to one or more previously isolated Brucella spp. including strains from both terrestrial and marine hosts. Phylogenetic analysis of this sequence suggested that one animal was shedding Brucella spp. DNA with a sequence matching a Brucella abortus strain, whereas two animals yielded a sequence matching a group of strains including isolates classified as Brucella pinnipedialis and Brucella melitensis. Our results highlight the diversity of Brucella spp. within a single sea otter population.
Zoonotic infections transmitted from marine mammals to humans in the Baltic and European Arctic are of unknown significance, despite given considerable potential for transmission due to local hunt. Here we present results of an initial screening for Brucella spp. in Arctic and Baltic seal species. Baltic ringed seals (Pusa hispida, n?=?12) sampled in October 2015 and Greenland Sea harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus, n?=?6) and hooded seals (Cystophora cristata, n?=?3) sampled in March 2015 were serologically analysed for antibodies against Brucella spp. The serological analyses were performed using the Rose Bengal Test (RBT) followed by a confirmatory testing of RBT-positive samples by a competitive-enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (C-ELISA). Two of the Baltic ringed seals (a juvenile male and a juvenile female) were seropositive thus indicating previous exposure to a Brucella spp. The findings indicate that ringed seals in the Baltic ecosystem may be exposed to and possibly infected by Brucella spp. No seropositive individuals were detected among the Greenland harp and hooded seals. Although our initial screening shows a zoonotic hazard to Baltic locals, a more in-depth epidemiological investigation is needed in order to determine the human risk associated with this.