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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Prevalence of antibodies against Brucella spp. in West Greenland polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and East Greenland muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus)

Sonne, Christian; Andersen-Ranberg, Emilie; Rajala, Elisabeth L.; Agerholm, Jorgen S.; Bonefeld-Jorgensen, Eva; Desforges, Jean-Pierre; Eulaers, Igor; Gustayson, Kim; Jenssen, Bjorn M.; Koch, Anders; Rosing-Asvid, Aqqalu; Schmidt, Niels Martin; Grondahl, Carsten; Mosbacher, Jesper B.; Siebert, Ursula; Tryland, Morten; Mulvad, Gert; Born, Erik W.; Laidre, Kristin; Wiig, Oystein;
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Zoonotic infections transmitted from terrestrial and marine mammals to humans in European Arctic are of unknown significance, despite considerable potential for transmission due to local hunt and a rapidly changing environment. As an example, infection with Brucella bacteria may have significant impact on human health due to consumption of raw meat or otherwise contact with tissues and fluids of infected game species such as muskoxen and polar bears. Here, we present serological results for Baffin Bay polar bears (Ursus maritimus) (n=96) and North East Greenland muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) (n=32) for antibodies against Brucella spp. The analysis was a two-step trial initially using the Rose Bengal Test (RBT), followed by confirmative competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays of RBT-positive samples. No muskoxen had antibodies against Brucella spp., while antibodies were detected in six polar bears (6.25%) rendering a seroprevalence in line with previous findings in other Arctic regions. Seropositivity was not related to sex, age or biometrics i.e. size and body condition. Whether Brucella spp. antibodies found in polar bears were due to either prey spill over or true recurrent Brucella spp. infections is unknown. Our results therefore highlight the importance of further research into the zoonotic aspects of Brucella spp. infections, and the impact on wildlife and human health in the Arctic region.


Arctic; Humans; One health; Zoonosis

Published in

Polar Biology
2018, Volume: 41, number: 9, pages: 1671-1680
Publisher: SPRINGER