Occurrence of Brucella ceti in stranded bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus coincides with calving season

Wayne E. McFee, David Wu, Kathleen Colegrove, Karen Terio, Len Balthis, Robert Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brucellosis is a disease caused by the Gram-negative facultative intracellular bacterium Brucella spp. In terrestrial species, this zoonotic bacterium is a global public health risk, but there is also concern over the zoonotic potential of marine forms, such as B. ceti, which affects cetaceans. Due to the detection of B. ceti in samples from bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus during the 2010−2014 Gulf of Mexico Unusual Mortality Event, a long-term study of the prevalence of Brucella in stranded bottlenose dolphins from South Carolina, USA, was conducted. From 2012 through 2017, 282 stranded bottlenose dolphins were tested for B. ceti via real-time PCR. Nearly 32% of the dolphins tested positive in at least one sample (brain, lung, blowhole swab). Very little information exists in the literature on the occurrence of Brucella spp. in marine mammals, though in terrestrial species, such as cattle and elk, higher prevalence is often reported in spring. Similar results were found in this study with the peak occurrence being between March and June, a known period of calving in South Carolina. Results from this study provide important insights into the occurrence of the marine bacterium B. ceti.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Bottlenose dolphins
  • Brucella ceti
  • Brucellosis
  • Occurrence
  • Real-time PCR
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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