Serologic evidence ofBrucellainfection in pinnipeds along the coast of Hokkaido, the northernmost main island of Japan
Brucella infection in Hokkaido was serologically surveyed in four species of pinnipeds inhabiting Cape Erimo during 2008–2013 and the Shiretoko Peninsula in 1999 by ELISA using Brucella abortus and B. canis as antigens. Anti-Brucella positive sera showed higher absorbance to B. abortus than B. canis in almost all samples. Anti-B. abortus antibodies were detected in serum samples from 24% (n = 55) of Western Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina stejnegeri) in Cape Erimo and from 66% (n = 41) of spotted seals (P. largha), 15% (n = 20) of ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata) and 18% (n = 17) of Western Steller's sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus jubatus) in the Shiretoko Peninsula. Anti-Brucella antibodies were detected at higher absorbance in 1- to 4-year-old harbor seals than in the pups and mature animals, suggesting either that Brucella infection mainly occurs after weaning or that it is maternally transmitted to pups with premature or suppressed immunity. Anti-Brucella antibodies were detected in both immature and mature spotted seals and ribbon seals, with higher absorbance in the former. The antibodies were detected only in mature Western Steller's sea lions. Western blot analysis of the serum samples showed some differences in band appearances, namely discrete versus smeary, and in the number of bands, indicating that multiple different Brucella may be prevalent in pinnipeds in Hokkaido. Alternatively, the Brucella of pinnipeds may have some intra-species diversity.