Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 755–762 | Cite as

A serosurvey for Trichinella in Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) in Svalbard

  • Kjetil Åsbakk
  • Torill Mørk
  • Eva Fuglei
Original Paper


After infection with Trichinella spp. was first demonstrated in the arctic fox population in Svalbard 30 years ago, there have been changes in the Svalbard ecosystem related to abundance of polar bear and walrus, both reservoir species for Trichinella. In order to update the assessment of the infection rate and search for differences between sex, age, trapping season and location of trapping sites, we examined arctic foxes from Svalbard in 1996–2004 (n = 429) for antibodies against Trichinella spp. For support and muscle larvae (ML) identification, the diaphragm of a subsample of 330 of the foxes, 40 foxes from 2007 to 2008, and a polar bear (Ursus maritimus) tongue sample, were examined for ML by an HCl–pepsin digestion method. The antibody assay (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, ELISA) demonstrated a seroprevalence of 11.7 %. The prevalence increased with age, was similar in females and males, and body condition was similar in seropositives and seronegatives. There were differences in prevalence between trapping seasons and sites. A previously reported spatial (north–south) difference appeared to be eliminated. The seroprevalence was significantly higher in males (50.0 %) than females (20.0 %) of age 4 years and older. An ML prevalence of 6.7 % was demonstrated for the foxes. This was probably an underestimate due to small sample weights. ML were found also in the polar bear. Multiplex PCR identified eleven ML isolates, ten from the arctic foxes and the polar bear isolate, as Trichinella nativa.


Trichinella Vulpes lagopus Arctic fox Svalbard ELISA 



Thanks to Kirsti Rønne, Eva Marie Breines and Ellinor Hareide for technical assistance, and to Oddveig Øien Ørvoll, Norwegian Polar Institute, for graphic assistance. Thanks to the trappers on Svalbard, specifically Harald A. Solheim at Kapp Wijk, and to the Governor of Svalbard for samples from the annual arctic fox trapping. The valuable help by prof. Edoardo Pozio and other staff at the European Union Reference Laboratory for Parasites in Rome is highly appreciated. The work was supported by grants from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Research Council of Norway.

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have any financial or personal relationships with other people or organizations that could inappropriately influence (bias) this work.


  1. Åkerstedt J (2002) An indirect ELISA for detection of Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection in farmed blue foxes (Alopex lagopus). Acta Vet Scand 43:211–220CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Anonymous (1966) Recent Norwegian laws relating to sealing. Polar Rec 13:209–211Google Scholar
  3. Arnason U, Gullberg A, Janke A, Kullberg M, Lehman N, Petrov EA, Väinölä R (2006) Pinniped phylogeny and a new hypothesis for their origin and dispersal. Mol Phylogenet Evol 41:345–354CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Åsbakk K, Aars J, Derocher AE, Wiig Ø, Oksanen A, Born EW, Dietz R, Sonne C, Godfroid J, Kapel CMO (2010) Serosurvey for Trichinella in polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Svalbard and the Barents sea. Vet Parasitol 172:256–263CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Birks JDS, Penford N (1990) Observations on the ecology of arctic foxes Alopex lagopus in Eqalummiut Nunaat, West Greenland. Bioscience 32:3–32Google Scholar
  6. Davidson RK, Handeland K, Kapel CM (2008) High tolerance to repeated cycles of freezing and thawing in different Trichinella nativa isolates. Parasitol Res 103:1005–1010CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Davidson RK, Ørpetveit I, Møller L, Kapel CMO (2009) Serological detection of anti-Trichinella antibodies in wild foxes and experimentally infected farmed foxes in Norway. Vet Parasitol 163:93–100CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Derocher AE, Wolkers H, Colborn T, Schlabach M, Larsen TS, Wiig Ø (2003) Contaminants in Svalbard polar bear samples archived since 1967 and possible population level effects. Sci Total Env 301:163–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dick TA, Pozio E (2001) Trichinella spp. and trichinellosis. In: Samuel WM, Pybus MJ, Kocau AA (eds) Parasitic diseases of wild mammals, 2nd edn. Iowa State University Press, Ames, pp 380–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eide NE, Eid PM, Prestrud P, Swenson JE (2005) Dietary responses of arctic foxes Alopex lagopus to changing prey availability across an arctic landscape. Wildl Biol 11:109–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eide NE, Stien A, Prestrud P, Yoccoz NG, Fuglei E (2012) Reproductive responses to spatial and temporal prey availability in a coastal arctic fox population. J Anim Ecol 81:640–648. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2011.01936.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Elmore SA, Lalonde LF, Samelius G, Alisauskas RT, Gajadhar AA, Jenkins EJ (2013) Endoparasites in the feces of arctic foxes in a terrestrial ecosystem in Canada. Int J Parasitol Parasite Wildl 2:90–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Forbes LB (2000) The occurrence and ecology of Trichinella in marine mammals. Vet Parasitol 93:321–334CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Frafjord K (1993) Food habits of arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) on the western coast of Svalbard. Arctic 46:49–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fuglei E, Ims RA (2008) Global warming and effects on the arctic fox. Sci Prog 91:175–191CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Gajadhar AA, Forbes LB (2010) A 10-year wildlife survey of 15 species of canadian carnivores identifies new hosts or geographic locations for Trichinella genotypes T2, T4, T5, and T6. Vet Parasitol 168:78–83CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gamble HR (1996) Detection of trichinellosis in pigs by artificial digestion and enzyme immunoassay. J Food Prot 59:295–298PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Gamble HR, Graham CE (1984) A monoclonal antibody-purified antigen for the immunodiagnosis of trichinosis. Am J Vet Res 45:67–74PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Gamble HR, Patrascu IV (1996) Whole blood, serum, and tissue fluids in an enzyme immunoassay for swine trichinellosis. J Food Prot 59:1213–1217Google Scholar
  20. Gamble HR, Rapic D, Marinculic A, Murrell KD (1988) Evaluation of excretory-secretory antigens for the serodiagnosis of swine trichinellosis. Vet Parasitol 30:131–137CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Gjertz I, Wiig Ø (1994) Past and present distribution of walruses in Svalbard. Arctic 43:34–42Google Scholar
  22. Gjertz I, Wiig Ø (1995) The number of walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) in Svalbard in summer. Polar Biol 13:527–530Google Scholar
  23. Gottstein B, Pozio E, Connolly B, Gamble HR, Eckert J, Jakob HP (1997) Epidemiological investigation of trichinellosis in Switzerland. Vet Parasitol 72:201–207CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Grue H, Jensen B (1976) Annual cementum structures in canine teeth in arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus L) from Greenland and Denmark. Danish Rev Game Biol 10:1–12Google Scholar
  25. Guan GQ, Luo JX, Ma ML, Yang DY, Wang YH, Gao JL, Sun HW, Liu ZJ, Liu AH, Dang ZS, Boulard C, Yin H (2005) Sero-epidemiological surveillance of hypodermosis in yaks and cattle in north China by ELISA. Vet Parasitol 129:133–137CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Henriksen SA (1978) Recovery of Trichinella spiralis larvae from frozen muscle samples. Acta Vet Scand 19:607–608PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Henttonen H, Fuglei E, Gower CN, Haukisalmi V, Ims RA, Niemimaa J, Yoccoz NG (2001) Echinococcus multilocularis on Svalbard: introduction of an intermediate host has enabled the local life-cycle. Parasitology 123:547–552CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Hill DE, Forbes L, Kramer M, Gajadhar A, Gamble HR (2007) Larval viability and serological response in horses with long-term Trichinella spiralis infection. Vet Parasitol 146:107–116CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Iglesias R, Leiro J, Ubeira FM, Santamarina MT, Navarrete I, Sanmartín ML (1996) Antigenic cross-reactivity in mice between third-stage larvae of Anisakis simplex and the other nematodes. Parasitol Res 82:378–381CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kapel CMO, Gamble HR (2000) Infectivity, persistence, and antibody response to domestic and sylvatic Trichinella spp. in experimentally infected pigs. Int J Parasitol 30:215–221CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Kapel CMO, Henriksen SA, Dietz HH, Henriksen P, Nansen P (1994) A study on the predilection sites of Trichinella spiralis larvae in experimentally infected foxes (Alopex lagopus, Vulpes vulpes). Acta Vet Scand 35:125–132PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Kapel CMO, Henriksen SA, Berg TB, Nansen P (1995) Trichinella infections in arctic foxes from Greenland: studies and reflections on predilection sites of muscle larvae. J Helminthol 69:325–330CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Kapel CMO, Henriksen SA, Berg TB (1996) Epidemiologic and zoogeographic studies on Trichinella nativa in Arctic fox, Alopex lagopus, in Greenland. J Helminthol Soc Wash 63:226–232Google Scholar
  34. Kapel CMO, Pozio E, Sacchi L, Prestrud P (1999) Freeze tolerance, morphology, and RAPD-PCR identification of Trichinella nativa in naturally infected Arctic foxes. J Parasitol 85:144–147CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Kjos-Hansen B (1984) Trichinella isolates from polar bears in Svalbard. Freeze resistance and infectivity in rats and swine. Nord Vet Med 36(1–2):57–61Google Scholar
  36. Kovacs KM, Lydersen C (2014) Walrus. Norwegian Polar Institute informational web. Accessed April 2014
  37. La Rosa G, Pozio E, Henriksen SA (1990) Biochemical characterization of Trichinella in Greenland. Acta Vet Scand 31:381–383PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Larsen T, Kjos-Hanssen B (1983) Trichinella sp. in polar bears from Svalbard, in relation to hide length and age. Polar Res 1:89–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Larsen T, Norderhaug M (1979) Hvalrossen kommer tilbake til Svalbard (The walrus is coming back in Svalbard). Norsk Natur 10:44–47 (in Norwegian)Google Scholar
  40. Lønø O (1970) The polar bear in the Svalbard area. Nor Polarinst Skr 149:103Google Scholar
  41. Lydersen C, Gjertz I (1986) Studies of the ringed seal (Phoca hispida Schreber 1775) in its breeding habitat in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Polar Res 4:57–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lydersen C, Aars J, Kovacs KM (2008) Estimating the number of walruses in Svalbard from aerial surveys and behavioural data from satellite telemetry. Arctic 61:119–128Google Scholar
  43. Macpherson AH (1969) The dynamics of Canadian arctic fox populations. Can Wildl Serv Rep Ser 8:1–50Google Scholar
  44. Margolis HS, Middaugh JP, Burgess RD (1979) Arctic trichinosis: two Alaskan outbreaks from walrus meat. J Infect Dis 139:102–105CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Møller LN (2007) Epidemiology of Trichinella in Greenland—occurrence in animals and man. Int J Circumpolar Health 66:77–79PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Møller LN, Petersen E, Gamble HR, Kapel CMO (2005) Comparison of two antigens for demonstration of Trichinella spp. antibodies in blood and muscle fluid of foxes, pigs and wild boars. Vet Parasitol 132:81–84CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Nöckler K, Voigt WP (1998) Experimental Trichinella spiralis infection in the silver fox (Vulpes vulpes fulva). In: Ortega-Pierres G, Gamble HR, van Knapen F, Wakelin D (eds). Trichinellosis. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Trichinellosis. Germar Press. Nonoalco Tlateloco, Mexico, pp 319–323Google Scholar
  48. Nöckler K, Pozio E, Voigt WP, Heidrich J (2000) Detection of Trichinella infection in food animals. Vet Parasitol 93:335–350CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Oksanen A, Oivanen L, Eloranta E, Tirkkonen T, Åsbakk K (2000) Experimental trichinellosis in reindeer. J Parasitol 86(4):763–767CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Parnell IW (1934) Animal parasites of north-east Canada. Can Field-Nat 48:111–114Google Scholar
  51. Pozio E (2001) New patterns of Trichinella infection. Vet Parasitol 98:133–148CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Pozio E, La Rosa G (2003) PCR-derived methods for the identification of Trichinella parasites in animal and human samples. In: Sachse K, Frey J (eds) Methods in molecular biology. Humana Press In, Totowa, pp 299–309Google Scholar
  53. Pozio E, La Rosa G (2013) Trichinella. In: Liu D (ed) Molecular detection of human parasitic pathogens. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, FL, pp 691–703Google Scholar
  54. Pozio E, Zarlenga DS (2005) Recent advances on the taxonomy, systematics and epidemiology of Trichinella. Int J Parasitol 35:1191–1204CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Pozio E, Zarlenga DS (2013) New pieces of the Trichinella puzzle. Int J Parasitol 43:983–997CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Prestrud P (1992) Arctic foxes in Svalbard: population ecology and rabies. PhD-dissertation, pp 216. Norwegian Polar Institute. Oslo, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  57. Prestrud P, Nilssen K (1992) Fat deposition and seasonal variation in body composition of arctic foxes in Svalbard. J Wildl Manag 56:221–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Prestrud P, Stirling I (1994) The international polar bear agreement and the current status of polar bear conservation. Aquat Mamm 20:113–124Google Scholar
  59. Prestrud P, Stuve G, Holt G (1993) The prevalence of Trichinella sp. in arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) in Svalbard. J Wildl Dis 29:337–340CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Rolland-Turner M, Farre G, Muller D, Rouet N, Boue F (2004) Immunological tools for the assessment of both humoral and cellular immune responses in foxes (Vulpes vulpes) using ovalbumin and cholera toxin B as an antigenic model. Vaccine 22:4163–4172CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. SAS (2013) JMP® 11 specialized models. SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NC. ISBN 978-1-61290-683-6Google Scholar
  62. Seymour J, Horstmann-Dehn L, Rosa C, Lopez JA (2014) Occurrence and genotypic analysis of Trichinella species in Alaska marine-associated mammals of the Bering and Chucki seas. Vet Parasitol 200:153–164CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Stien A, Voutilainen L, Haukisalmi V, Fuglei E, Mørk T, Yoccoz NG, Ims RA, Henttonen H (2010) Intestinal parasites of the arctic fox in relation to abundance and distribution in intermediate hosts. Parasitology 137:149–157CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Stien A, Bårdsen B-J, Veiberg V, Andersen R, Loe LE, Pedersen ÅØ (2012) Jakt på svalbardrein—kunnskapsstatus og evaluering av aktuelle forvaltningsmodeller (Hunting of Svalbard reindeer—status of knowledge and evaluation of relevant management models). Sluttrapport til Svalbards miljøvernfond. Sysselmannen, Longyearbyen,  p 21 (In Norwegian)Google Scholar
  65. Thing H, Henriksen S-A (1976) Finding of Trichinella spiralis in walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) in the Thule district. Northwest Greenland, Nord Vet Med 28Google Scholar
  66. Thorshaug K, Rosted F (1956) Researches into the prevalence of trichinosis in animals in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Nord Vet Med 8:115–129Google Scholar
  67. Tryland M, Handeland K, Bratberg AM, Solbakk IT, Oksanen A (2006) Persistence of antibodies in blood and body fluids in decaying fox carcasses, as exemplified by antibodies against Microsporum canis. Acta Vet Scand 48:1–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tyler NJC, Øritsland NA (1989) Why don’t Svalbard reindeer migrate? Holarct Ecol 12:369–376Google Scholar
  69. Veit P, Bilger B, Schad V, Schäfer J, Frank W, Lucius R (1995) Influence of environmental factors on the infectivity of Echinococcus multilocularis eggs. Parasitology 110:79–86CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Wiig Ø, Gjertz I (1996) Body size of male Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) from Svalbard. J Zool 240:495–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Arctic and Marine BiologyThe Arctic University of Norway – UiTLangnes, TromsøNorway
  2. 2.Norwegian Veterinary Institute, North NorwayTromsøNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian Polar InstituteTromsøNorway

Personalised recommendations