Volume 78 (2016) Issue 9 Pages 1457-1464
In a long-term, large-scale serologic study in the western North Pacific Ocean, anti-Brucella antibodies were detected in common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in the 1994–2010 offshore surveys (21%, 285/1353) and in the 2006–2010 Japanese coastal surveys (20%, 86/436), in Bryde’s whales (B. edeni brydei) in the 2000–2010 offshore surveys (9%, 49/542), in sei whales (B. borealis) in the 2002–2010 offshore surveys (5%, 40/788) and in sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in the 2000–2010 offshore surveys (8%, 4/50). Anti-Brucella antibodies were not detected in 739 Antarctic minke whales (B. bonaerensis) in the 2000–2010 Antarctic surveys. This suggests that Brucella was present in the four large whale populations inhabiting the western North Pacific, but not in the Antarctic minke whale population. By PCR targeting for genes of outer membrane protein 2, the Brucella infection was confirmed in tissue DNA samples from Bryde’s whales (14%, 2/14), sei whales (11%, 1/9) and sperm whales (50%, 2/4). A placental tissue and an apparently healthy fetus from a sperm whale were found to be PCR-positive, indicating that placental transmission might have occurred and the newborn could act as a bacterial reservoir. Marked granulomatous testes were observed only in mature animals of the three species of baleen whales in the western North Pacific offshore surveys, especially in common minke whales, and 29% (307/1064) of total mature males had abnormal testes. This study provides an insight into the status of marine Brucella infection at a global level.