Detection of canine distemper virus serum neutralizing antibodies in captive U.S. phocids

Meredith M. Clancy, Kathryn C. Gamble, Dominic A Travis

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1 Scopus citations


Antibodies to morbilliviruses have been documented in free-ranging pinnipeds throughout populations in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, but not from the Pacific Ocean. As a symbolic geographic barrier between the exposed Atlantic and naïve Pacific populations, the captive phocid population in North America had undocumented serologic status. In this study, canine distemper virus (CDV) serum neutralization assays were used to assess the prevalence of antibodies in this population with participation of 25 U.S. institutions from grey seals (Halichoerus grypus, n = 6) and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina, n = 108). Historic and environmental risk factors associated with the epidemiology of distemper virus were collected by survey. Based on antibodies to canine distemper virus, the prevalence of exposure in this population was 25.5%, with 28 seals (grey, n = 2; harbor, n = 26) demonstrating antibody titers ≥1:16, and positive titers ranged from 1:4 to 1:1,536. By survey analysis, strong associations with seropositive status were identified for captive origin (P = 0.013) and movement among institutions (P = 0.024). Size of population has positive correlation with likelihood of seropositive seals at an institution (P = 0.020). However, no major husbandry or enclosure-based risk factors were identified in institutions with seropositive seals, and no interaction between individual or institutional risk factors was identified. Previously undocumented prior to this study, CDV antibodies were measured in harbor seals (n = 2) recently stranded from the Pacific coast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-78
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013


  • Grey seal
  • Halichoerus grypus
  • Phoca vitulina
  • harbor seal
  • morbillivirus
  • risk analysis


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