Morbillivirus and Toxoplasma exposure and association with hematological parameters for southern Beaufort Sea polar bears: potential response to infectious agents in a sentinel species

EcoHealth
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Abstract

Arctic temperatures are increasing in response to greenhouse gas forcing and polar bears have already responded to changing conditions. Declines in body stature and vital rates have been linked to warming-induced loss of sea-ice. As food webs change and human activities respond to a milder Arctic, exposure of polar bears and other arctic marine organisms to infectious agents may increase. Because of the polar bear’s status as arctic ecosystem sentinel, polar bear health could provide an index of changing pathogen occurrence throughout the Arctic, however, exposure and monitoring protocols have yet to be established. We examine prevalence of antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii, and four morbilliviruses (canine distemper [CDV], phocine distemper [PDV], dolphin morbillivirus [DMV], porpoise morbillivirus [PMV]) including risk factors for exposure. We also examine the relationships between antibody levels and hematologic values established in the previous companion article. Antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii and morbilliviruses were found in both sample years. We found a significant inverse relationship between CDV titer and total leukocytes, neutrophils, monocytes, and eosinophils, and a significant positive relationship between eosinophils and Toxoplasma gondii antibodies. Morbilliviral prevalence varied significantly among age cohorts, with 1–2 year olds least likely to be seropositive and bears aged 5–7 most likely. Data suggest that the presence of CDV and Toxoplasma gondii antibodies is associated with polar bear hematologic values. We conclude that exposure to CDV-like antigen is not randomly distributed among age classes and suggest that differing behaviors among life history stages may drive probability of specific antibody presence.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Morbillivirus and Toxoplasma exposure and association with hematological parameters for southern Beaufort Sea polar bears: potential response to infectious agents in a sentinel species
Series title EcoHealth
DOI 10.1007/s10393-010-0323-0
Volume 7
Issue 3
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB
Description 11 p.
First page 321
Last page 331
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N