Characterisation of North American Brucella isolates from marine mammals

AM Whatmore, C Dawson, J Muchowski, LL Perrett, E Stubberfield, M Koylass, G Foster, NJ Davison, C Quance, IF Sidor, CL Field, J St.Leger

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Extension of known ecological niches of Brucella has included the description of two novel species from marine mammals. Brucella pinnipedialis is associated predominantly with seals, while two major Brucella ceti clades, most commonly associated with porpoises or dolphins respectively, have been identified. To date there has been limited characterisation of Brucella isolates obtained from marine mammals outside Northern European waters, including North American waters. To address this gap, and extend knowledge of the global population structure and host associations of these Brucella species, 61 isolates from marine mammals inhabiting North American waters were subject to molecular and phenotypic characterisation enabling comparison with existing European isolates. The majority of isolates represent genotypes previously described in Europe although novel genotypes were identified in both B. ceti clades. Harp seals were found to carry B. pinnipedialis genotypes previously confined to hooded seals among a diverse repertoire of sequence types (STs) associated with this species. For the first time Brucella isolates were characterised from beluga whales and found to represent a number of distinct B. pinnipedialis genotypes. In addition the known host range of ST27 was extended with the identification of this ST from California sea lion samples. Finally the performance of the frequently used diagnostic tool Bruce-ladder, in differentiating B. ceti and B. pinnipedialis, was critically assessed based on improved knowledge of the global population structure of Brucella associated with marine mammals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0184758
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Early online date21 Sept 2017
Publication statusFirst published - 21 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note



  • Beluga whales
  • Brucella
  • Dolphins
  • Europe
  • Marine mammals
  • Porpoises
  • Sea lions
  • Seals


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