A serologic survey of anti-Brucella spp. antibodies was undertaken on 2,470 samples of 14 North American marine mammal species collected between 1984–97. Serum or blood from eight species of cetaceans and six species of pinnipeds was sampled from Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans. Two competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (C-ELISA's), using specific monoclonal antibodies to Brucella abortus cell wall components, were used to detect anti-Brucella spp. antibodies in the samples. Sera from 33 cetaceans and 61 pinnipeds gave inhibition values, in one or both of the tests, which exceeded the threshold that indicates Brucella spp. exposure in cattle. Seropositive animals were identified from Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans. While Brucella spp. was not isolated, differences in the response of seropositive cetacean and pinniped sera in the two assays suggest that two antigenically distinct species or biovars of Brucella spp. are present. No pathology consistent with clinical brucellosis was noted in any of the animals tested although detailed examination was not conducted on all carcasses.
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Vol. 37 • No. 1