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Bartonella spp. Exposure in Northern and Southern Sea Otters in Alaska and California
- Carrasco, Sebastian E., Chomel, Bruno B., Gill, Verena A., Doroff, Angela M., Miller, Melissa A., Burek-Huntington, Kathleen A., Kasten, Rickie W., Byrne, Barbara A., Goldstein, Tracey, Mazet, Jonna A.K.
- Vector borne and zoonotic diseases 2014 v.14 no.12 pp. 831-837
- Bartonella, DNA, Enhydra lutris nereis, Streptococcus lutetiensis, adults, antibodies, bacterial infections, confidence interval, disease outbreaks, endocarditis, monitoring, mortality, necropsy, septicemia, seroprevalence, Alaska, California
- Since 2002, an increased number of northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) from southcentral Alaska have been reported to be dying due to endocarditis and/or septicemia with infection by Streptococcus infantarius subsp. coli. Bartonella spp. DNA was also detected in northern sea otters as part of mortality investigations during this unusual mortality event (UME) in Kachemak Bay, Alaska. To evaluate the extent of exposure to Bartonella spp. in sea otters, sera collected from necropsied and live-captured northern sea otters, as well as necropsied southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) unaffected by the UME, were analyzed using an immunofluorescent antibody assay. Antibodies against Bartonella spp. were detected in sera from 50% of necropsied and 34% of presumed healthy, live-captured northern sea otters and in 16% of necropsied southern sea otters. The majority of sea otters with reactive sera were seropositive for B. washoensis, with antibody titers ranging from 1:64 to 1:256. Bartonella spp. antibodies were especially common in adult northern sea otters, both free-living (49%) and necropsied (62%). Adult stranded northern sea otters that died from infectious causes, such as opportunistic bacterial infections, were 27 times more likely to be Bartonella seropositive than adult stranded northern sea otters that died from noninfectious causes (p<0.001; 95% confidence interval 2.62–269.4). Because Bartonella spp. antibodies were detected in necropsied northern sea otters from southcentral (44%) and southwestern (86%) stocks of Alaska, as well as in necropsied southern sea otters (16%) in southcentral California, we concluded that Bartonella spp. exposure is widely distributed among sea otter populations in the Eastern Pacific, providing context for investigating future disease outbreaks and monitoring of Bartonella infections for sea otter management and conservation.