Blood metal levels and metal-influenced immune functions of harbour seals in captivity


Immunological blood parameters and the effects of environmental pollutants on the immune system are important to assess the health status of seals. Animals living permanently in seal centres are useful for development and validation of diagnostic tools for free-ranging animals. In this study, parameters of cellular immunity as well as metal concentrations in blood and metal influence on cell proliferation of seven seals from a seal centre were investigated repeatedly using multi-element analysis and a lymphocyte proliferation assay. The metal concentrations, except for tin and chromium, were in general comparable to those of free-ranging animals of the North Sea. The unstimulated and mitogen-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation showed strong intra- and inter-individual variability, which reflected variability in activation of the immune status. Furthermore, both immunosuppressive and stimulative influences of metals on lymphocytes were found. Summarising, the methods used in this investigation provided useful information on these animals, and their application to free-ranging animals can be recommended.
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