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Serological evidence of morbillivirus infection in polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Alaska and Russia
  1. E. H. Follmann, PhD1,
  2. G. W. Garner, PhD2,
  3. J. F. Evermann, PhD3 and
  4. A. J. McKeirnan, MS3
  1. 1 Institute of Arctic Biology, PO Box 757000, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7000, USA
  2. 2 US National Biological Service, Alaska Science Center, 1011 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503, USA
  3. 3 Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA


One-hundred-and-ninety-one samples of blood serum collected from 186 polar bears (Ursus maritimus) between 1987 and 1992 were analysed for morbillivirus antibodies. The samples were collected in the Bering, Chukchi and East Siberian seas. Sixty-eight samples (35.6 per cent) had morbillivirus antibody titres >5; the percentage of positive samples ranged from 26.2 to 46.2 per cent from year to year. The proportions of adults, sub-adults and cubs which were seropositive were 43.9, 35.7 and 37.9 per cent respectively. Some seropositive dams had seronegative young and some that were seronegative had seropositive young. One litter of two cubs, in which the dam was seronegative, had one seropositive and one seronegative cub. Seropositive bears occurred in all the areas from which the samples were collected but there was a significantly greater incidence in the bears sampled in Russia. The high prevalence of seropositive bears over the period suggests that the bear morbillivirus is endemic in these regions of the Arctic, but its source is unknown.

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