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Infection of wild grey seals with Campylobacter

J. L. Baily, G. Méric, S. Bayliss, G. Foster, S. E. Moss and others

THE health of marine ecosystems can be threatened by contamination from sewage, either from municipal wastewater treatment works or agricultural runoff. Campylobacter is currently a public health concern in the UK, being the most commonly reported cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in people, causing an estimated 500,000 cases and 110 deaths annually. Grey seals are a potential sentinel species for marine environments in the UK. This study aimed to investigate the presence of Campylobacter in grey seals in Scotland.

Rectal swabs were taken from 90 wild-caught live grey seal pups and 19 wild-caught yearling grey seals in a colony on the Isle of May in Scotland. Swabs were also taken from 31 live grey seal pups that had become stranded along the Scottish coastline, 50 dead seal pups from the Isle of May and nine stranded seal pups that died at a wildlife centre. All swabs were analysed and postmortem examinations and histopathology were performed on the 50 dead seal pups. Any Campylobacter samples isolated were analysed genetically.

Among the seal pups sampled on the Isle of May, Campylobacter was found to be present in 46 (51 per cent) of the …

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