• Blood organochlorines, immune function and health of free-ranging northern fur seal pups (Callorhinus ursinus)

      Beckmen, Kimberlee Beth; Blake, John E. (1999)
      This study examined organochlorine (OC) contaminant levels in blood and milk along with immune function and health of northern fur seals ( Callorhinus ursinus) from St. George Island, Alaska. This portion of the Pribilof Islands breeding stock has undergone a long-term decline between 4 and 6% per year for unknown reasons. To examine the possible role of neonatal OC exposure on health, two cohorts of pups (69 total) and 33 matched periparturient dams were captured for blood and milk sample collection. From the second cohort of 49 neonates, 43 were re-sampled 29 to 51 days later. OCs were extracted from whole blood and milk to identify 15 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners and 4 metabolites of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane by high performance liquid chromatography. Peripheral blood lymphocytes were isolated and cryopreserved for in vitro lymphoproliferative immunoassays. These cellular function assays, along with complete blood cell counts, growth rates and survival through the early developmental period, were used as indicators of health status. Humoral immune function was assessed by in vivo antibody responses to tetanus vaccination. Mean blood levels of PCBs were higher in neonate samples than in pups one to two months old. Seven of the eight congeners detected in blood were higher (lipid weight) in neonate blood than in dam blood or milk. First-born neonates were exposed to higher levels of OCs from ingested milk and had higher blood levels of OCs than neonates of older, multiparous dams. Higher OC exposure in neonates was correlated to higher blood OC levels and poorer lymphoproliferative responses as well as lowered serum. retinol and thyroxine. Higher proportions of pups born to old dams developed tetanus antibodies compared to the pups of young dams. Higher OC exposure and poor immune responses in first-born pups may indicate a higher risk of secondary morbidity and mortality than for pups born to multiparous dams but an affect on growth rate or survival to midway through the nursing period was not detected. Evidence of substantial OC contaminant exposure at a critical period of development for the immune system must be considered as a potential contributing factor to reduced post-weaning survival.
    • Endocrine And Immune Profiles Of Immature Pinnipeds

      Keogh, Mandy Jean; Atkinson, Shannon; Castellini, Michael; Hellman, Tuula; Ortiz, Rudy; Runstadler, Jonathan (2011)
      There is increasing interest in assessing the health of individuals and populations of pinnipeds found in the North Pacific, primarily due to population declines leading to conservation concerns. This study assessed the "health" of animals by quantifying hormones associated with fat mass (leptin), lipid and water metabolism (cortisol and aldosterone), and growth and metabolism (thyroxine and triiodothyronine) as well as circulating total and differential leukocyte counts and in vitro proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Body mass and condition are influenced by an individual's disease and nutritional state. Glucocorticoids are known to affect the immune system and may be stimulated by a multitude of factors. I hypothesized that age or body mass would influence leukocyte counts, PBMC proliferation, and hormone concentrations in Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) pups and that the response of cortisol to an acute stressor would impact immune parameters in juvenile harbor seals (Phoca vitulina ). Further, given the inherent requirements of disturbance and animal handling necessary for sampling pinnipeds, the impact of these activities on endocrine and immune profiles was assessed. Total white blood cell (WBC) counts, neutrophil counts and T cell proliferation decreased with increasing age in Steller sea lion pups. However, no relationship between body condition index and circulating concentration of hormones quantified was detected. Circulating concentrations of cortisol, thyroxine, and triiodothyronine were influenced by the rookery disturbance. However, the variation attributed to the disturbance was low and did not alter total or differential WBC counts or in vitro proliferation of PBMC. In harbor seals, cortisol and aldosterone concentrations increased following an acute stressor which resulted in a stress leukogram. Total WBC decreased driven primarily by the decrease in neutrophil counts with simultaneous increase in lymphocytes leading to an overall decrease in neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio. These findings highlight the endocrine system's influence on the immune system in immature pinnipeds.