Serological survey of selected canine viral pathogens and zoonoses in grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) and black bears (Ursus americanus) from Alaska.
Between 1988 and 1991, 644 serum samples were collected from 480 grizzly bears and 40 black bears from Alaska, and were tested for selected canine viral infections and zoonoses. Antibody prevalence in grizzly bears was 0% for parvovirus, 8.3% (40/480) for distemper, 14% (68/480) for infectious hepatitis, 16.5% (79/480) for brucellosis, 19% (93/480) for tularaemia and 47% (225/478) for trichinellosis. In black bears, prevalence ranged from 0% for distemper and parvovirus to 27.5% for trichinellosis and 32% for tularaemia. Antibody prevalence for brucellosis (2.5%) and tularaemia (32%) were identical for grizzly bears and black bears from the geographical area of interior Alaska. Links between differences in prevalence and the origin of the grizzly bears were observed. Antibodies to canine distemper virus and infectious hepatitis virus were mainly detected in grizzly bears from Kodiak Island and the Alaskan Peninsula. Brucellosis antibodies were prevalent in grizzly bears from western and northern Alaska, whereas tularaemia antibodies were detected in grizzly bears from interior Alaska and the Arctic. There was a strong gradient for antibodies to Trichinella spp. from southern to northern Alaska. For most diseases, antibody prevalence increased with age. However, for several infections, no antibodies were detected in grizzly bears aged from 0 to 2 years, in contrast to the presence of those infections in black bears. Grizzly bears served as excellent sentinels for surveillance of zoonotic infections in wildlife in Alaska.