Acute-phase proteins (APPs) are utilized to detect early inflammation in many domestic and nondomestic species, but variability exists between species and inflammatory diseases as to which APPs are most useful. Stranded juvenile northern elephant seals (NESs; Mirounga angustirostris) undergoing rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Center experience high mortality rates due to severe arteritis caused by the lungworm, Otostrongylus circumlitis (OC), and there are currently no effective antemortem diagnostic tools for this disease. To characterize patterns of the acute-phase response in the NES, two APPs—serum amyloid A (SAA) and C-reactive protein (CRP)—were measured, and serum protein electrophoresis was performed to measure albumin and globulin fractions in 81 serum samples from 58 NESs in four different health states: healthy, malnourished, preclinical for OC infection, or clinical for OC infection. Compared to healthy NESs (median, 11.2 mg/L), SAA concentrations were significantly increased in malnourished (33.9 mg/L), preclinical (247 mg/L), and clinical OC–infected NESs (328 mg/L) (P < 0.05). CRP concentrations were increased only in clinical OC–infected NESs (median, 53.9 mg/L) and were below detectable limits in the other three groups (<0.01 mg/L). These results show that SAA and CRP are positive APPs in NESs with OC infection, and that SAA may serve as the major APP for this species. Albumin : globulin ratios were significantly increased in malnourished NESs (median, 1.26) and decreased in clinical OC–infected NESs (0.53). As a result, albumin is a negative APP in the NES, similar to other mammalian species. APP monitoring can be helpful in detecting and monitoring inflammation in rehabilitating juvenile NESs.
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