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Microbiol Immunol. 2002;46(9):639-44.

Serological evidence of transmission of human influenza A and B viruses to Caspian seals (Phoca caspica).

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Otsuchi Marine Research Center, Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Iwate, Japan.


Seroepidemiological surveillance of influenza in Caspian seals (Phoca caspica) was conducted. Antibodies to influenza A virus were detected in 54% (7/13), 57% (4/7), 40% (6/15) and 26% (11/42) of the serum samples collected in 1993, 1997, 1998 and 2000 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In an hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) test using H1-H15 reference influenza A viruses as antigens, more than half of the examined ELISA-positive sera reacted with an H3N2 prototype strain A/Aichi/2/68. These sera were then examined by HI test with a series of naturally occurring antigenic variants of human H3N2 virus, and H3 viruses of swine, duck, and equine origin. The sera reacted strongly with the A/Bangkok/1/79 (H3N2) strain, which was prevalent in humans in 1979-1981. The present results indicate that human A/Bangkok/1/79-like virus was transmitted to Caspian seals probably in the early 1980s, and was circulated in the population. Antibodies to influenza B virus were detected by ELISA in 14% (1/7) and 10% (4/42) serum samples collected from Caspian seals in 1997 and 2000, respectively. Our findings indicate that seal might be a reservoir of both influenza A and B viruses originated from humans.

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