After recent isolations of Brucella sp. from pinnipeds and cetaceans, a survey was initiated to investigate the prevalence of Brucella sp. infections and serologic evidence of exposure in marine mammals stranded along the coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. One hundred and nineteen serum samples from four species of cetaceans and four species of pinnipeds were collected from 1985 to 2000 and tested for antibodies to Brucella sp. using the brucellosis card test, buffered acidified plate antigen test, and rivanol test. In addition, 20 of these were necropsied between 1998 and 2000, with lymphoid and visceral tissues cultured for Brucella sp. Three of 21 (14%) harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and four of 53 (8%) harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) were seropositive. Brucella sp. was isolated from two of four (50%) harbor seals and three of nine (33%) harp seals. Of the five animals with positive cultures, two were seropositive and three seronegative. Brucella sp. was most frequently cultured from the lung and axillary, inguinal, and prescapular lymph nodes. Tissues from which Brucella sp. was isolated showed no gross or histopathologic changes. These results indicate that marine mammals stranded along the coast of southern New England can be exposed to and infected with Brucella sp.
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Vol. 34 • No. 3