Marine Mammals APP

Acute Phase Proteins in Manatees

Acute phase proteins (APP) form the cornerstone of innate immunity. They reflect a common pathway to inflammation which can be triggered by a variety of stimuli including infection, stress, neoplasia, and trauma. It appears that, much like land based mammals, marine mammals utilize the same evolutionary conserved APP such as C-reactive protein (CRP), serum amyloid A (SAA), and haptoglobin (HP).

In 1997, the purification of CRP from harbor seals was first described (Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 59: 151-162). An ELISA was produced during the course of this work and 5 to 50 fold increases in CRP were observed in harbor seals with meningitis, abscesses, and pneumonia. HP was also characterized in this species (Journal of Proteome Research, 8:2923-2932, 2008). The authors cited this as the first step in developing an important tool to assess the health of the wild harbor seal population. More recently, the authors reported that HP levels were found to be increased in seals during a phocine distemper virus epidemic (Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part B 155:67-71, 2010).

APP expression in manatees was detailed by Kendal Harr and colleagues in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine (37:151-159, 2006). Commercially available ELISA kits for CRP, SAA, and HP were used. No reactivity was reported for CRP. Comparing a good sample size of apparently healthy animals versus disease animal, SAA was found to have diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of 90%. HP was reported to have a diagnostic sensitivity of 60% and specificity of 93%. By comparison, fibrinogen has a sensitivity of 40% and specificity of 95%.

In collaboration with Dr. Maya Rodriguez at the Miami Seaquarium, we studied the application of our automated SAA and HP assays in the analysis of samples from manatees with cold stress and/or trauma. The clinically abnormal animals demonstrated a clear increase in SAA (>30 fold increase) that was present in during a period of normal total white blood cell counts. With response to treatment, the SAA levels fell to normal levels supporting the premise that SAA could be used as a valuable prognostic indicator in this species.

In addition to our work with manatees, these assays have been used in analysis of samples from dolphins and beluga whales.

See our recent publications:

C. Cray, K. Arheart, M. Hunt, L. Leppert, K. Roberts, S. McCulloch, J. Goldstein, C. Gonzalez, J. Sweeney, R. Stone, P.A. Fair, and G. Bossart. Acute phase protein quantitation in serum from healthy Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). J Vet Diag Invest, 25(1):107-111, 2013.

C. Cray, M. Rodriguez, M. Dickey, L. Brinson Brewer, and K.L. Arheart. Assessment of serum amyloid A levels in the rehabilitation setting in the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 44(4):909-915, 2013.

G. Bossart, K. Arheart, M. Hunt, L. Leppert, K. Roberts, S. McCulloch, J. Goldstein, C. Gonzalez, J. Sweeney, R. Stone, P.A. Fair, and C. Cray. Protein electrophoresis of serum from healthy Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Aquatic Mammals, 38(4):412-417, 2012.