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Assay dependence of Brucella antibody prevalence in a declining Alaskan harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) population

Karsten Hueffer1*, Scott M Gende2 and Todd M O’Hara1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Arctic Biology and Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 902 N. Koyukuk Dr., Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA

2 National Park Service, Glacier Bay Field Station, 3100 National Park Road, Juneau, Alaska 99801, USA

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2013, 55:2  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-55-2

Published: 16 January 2013



Brucella is a group of bacteria that causes brucellosis, which can affect population health and reproductive success in many marine mammals. We investigated the serological prevalence of antibodies against Brucella bacteria in a declining harbor seal population in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska.


Prevalence ranged from 16 to 74 percent for those tests detecting antibodies, indicating that harbor seals in Glacier Bay have been exposed to Brucella bacteria. However, the actual level of serological prevalence could not be determined because results were strongly assay-dependent.


This study reinforces the need to carefully consider assay choice when comparing different studies on the prevalence of anti–Brucella antibodies in pinnipeds and further highlights the need for species- or taxon-specific assay validation for both pathogen and host species.

Brucella; Harbor seals; Alaska; Assay dependence