September 24, 2007

New Technology May Mean Diseases Can't Hide
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution -
23 Sep 2007
J Nesmith
Photo courtesy of Al Behrman/Associated Press
Area: United States

Scientists have glimpsed a near future when infectious diseases will be diagnosed almost instantly, and possibly even anticipated before they exist. New instruments can race through a sample of blood, sputum, tissue or other biological specimen and spell out the genetic code of virtually everything present, including new diseases. The new technology is comparable to the invention of the microscope and will cause a fundamental change in the way disease is identified and diagnosed, some scientists believe. "It's a whole new world," said Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University epidemiologist and pathologist.

"If we'd had this, we could have anticipated HIV. We could have had a blood test ready. Think about the millions of people whose lives would have been saved." Lipkin was part of a team of government and university scientists who recently used the new technology — called metagenomics, or sometimes "shotgun genomics" — to link an unusual virus to the massive die-off of honeybees last winter. The scientists ground up bees from diseased hives and healthy hives and did what amounted to an inventory of all the DNA in every sample.

4 More Ebola Cases Found in Congo
The Associated Press (Posted by
22 Sep 2007
Area: Congo Africa

Four more cases of Ebola have been identified in Congo, bringing the total of confirmed cases to nine, officials said Saturday. The outbreak in Congo is the first major resurgence of Ebola in years. At least 167 people have died — though it is not clear how many of Ebola — in the affected region of Kasai Occidental over the past four months, and nearly 400 have fallen ill, according to Congolese health officials. Christiana Salvi, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization effort in Congo, said that the newest cases came from the same zone as the original confirmed samples.

DNA Barcodes 'Tackle Disease, Protect Biodiversity'
SciDev.Net -
21 Sep 2007
E Aguilar

DNA 'barcoding' offers rapid and low cost ways to monitor human disease vectors and biodiversity in developing countries, scientists told a conference this week. The comments came during the Second International Barcode of Life Conference in Taipei, Taiwan (18–20 September). The technique identifies known species and records new ones by sequencing a specific, short area of mitochondrial DNA, previously identified and agreed by scientists. This "barcode region" of mitochondrial DNA mutates at a rate fast enough to create differences between species, but slow enough to leave members of the same species with nearly identical barcodes.

Species that divided recently or are still interbreeding can be difficult to separate using this method. Comparing the sequence to all others in a database produces a picture of how similar the specimens are. The process takes a few hours and costs as little as US$2. Yvonne-Marie Linton of the UK's Natural History Museum, and leader of the Mosquito Barcoding Initiative, told SciDev.Net that barcoding should help control mosquitoes carrying diseases like malaria, West Nile disease and dengue fever.

Tennessee Man Faces Felony Charges for Importing Elk
The Chattanoogan -
24 Sep 2007
Area: Kentucky USA

A Tennessee man is being held in the McCracken County jail today facing six felony counts of illegally importing elk and deer into Kentucky after a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources conservation officer stopped his vehicle just west of Paducah Thursday night. Sgt. Garry Clark arrested Timothy Cory Looper, 25, of Livingston, Tennessee, after a tip from a citizen alerted him to a vehicle towing a trailer loaded with deer through Ballard County. Clark also charged Looper with two misdemeanor counts for importing antelope without transportation permits. Clark stopped the white Chevrolet pickup and cattle trailer on U.S. 60 and discovered five illegal bull elk, one axis buck deer, and two black buck antelope along with 12 exotic sheep.

State law prohibits the importation of elk and deer. The antelope, while not members of the cervid (deer) family, are wildlife native to India and require a transportation permit before entering the state. The sheep are considered livestock. Identification tags on four of the elk indicate their origin as a captive facility in Minnesota, a state where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been identified.

Escape from Devil's Island: The Plan to Save a Species
The Age -
22 Sep 2007
A Darby
Photo courtesy of Ourism Tasmania

The plan involves zoos and sanctuaries holding more than 1500 devils for decades, in the hope of eventually restocking Tasmania with healthy animals. With no sign of a slowdown in the transmissible cancer that is killing the devil, the urgency is rising. Leading devil biologist Menna Jones said it was "a race against extinction". Almost a year ago, 48 healthy young devils left Tasmania as the nucleus of an "insurance" population spread around four mainland zoos, including Victoria's Healesville Sanctuary and the Australian Reptile Park at Gosford, NSW.

Since then, devil deaths in the island state have continued unabated and the official Save the Tasmanian Devil Steering Committee now predicts the animal will be extinct in its natural habitat within 25 years. Most concerning is the evidence that the disease persists even when a population has been reduced to small numbers. "It's not showing up like a typical infectious disease that dies out at low density," Dr Jones said. There is already anecdotal evidence of extinction in some areas of Tasmania, and at long-term study sites the population is down to 10 per cent.


China Willing to Share Animal Disease Info

Bluetongue Detected in Suffolk [Press Release]


Avian Diseases
Volume 51, Number 3

Endocrine Disrupting Pesticides: Implications for Risk Assessment [free full-text available]
Environ Int. 2007 Sep; [Epub ahead of print]
R McKinlay et al.

Infectious Diseases and Extinction Risk in Wild Mammals [online abstract only]
Conserv Biol. 2007 Oct; 21(5): 1269-79
A Pederson et al.

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