May 26, 2011


White Nose Syndrome found in Maine Bats

The fast-spreading disease that has killed more than 1 million bats in North America has been found in Maine for the first time. State wildlife officials said today that bats at two sites in Oxford County were found with the telltale signs of white-nose syndrome: a fuzzy, white substance on their wings and muzzles. National wildlife disease experts later confirmed it was white-nose syndrome. The disease, or the fungus that causes it, has now been found in 19 states and four Canadian provinces.

“Every time you turn around, this disease is popping up somewhere new. It takes a massive toll on bats, and it’s extremely urgent that we mount a counterattack to stop this unprecedented outbreak," said Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, which continues to push for government action to stem the spread of the disease and for research funds to find a cure.

The disease was first documented in upstate New York in 2006 and has spread quickly. In some caves, mortality rates have reached 100 percent; there’s growing concern about the disease moving west and driving some bat species toward extinction. Biologists also fear a ripple effect from the loss of bats, which eat millions of pounds of night-flying insects each year and help keep in check bugs that are problematic for agriculture and forestry. A study released earlier this year found that the value of bats’ pest-control services in the United States ranges from $3.7 billion to $53 billion.

“Bats play an important role both for people and for the places they live. This disease is already cutting deep into bat populations in the Northeast and has the potential to spread from coast to coast if we don’t take action now," Matteson said.

Center for Biological Diversity -

24 May 2011
Location: Oxford County, Maine, USA - Map It


Dual parasitic infections deadly to marine mammals

A study of tissue samples from 161 marine mammals that died between 2004 and 2009 in the Pacific Northwest reveals an association between severe illness and co-infection with two kinds of parasites normally found in land animals. One, Sarcocystis neurona, is a newcomer to the northwest coastal region of North America and is not known to infect people, while the other, Toxoplasma gondii, has been established there for some time and caused a large outbreak of disease in people in 1995.

Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, collaborated with investigators in Washington state and Canada in the research, published online May 24 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Toxoplasmosis, the illness caused by T. gondii infection, is generally not serious in otherwise healthy people, but the parasites can cause severe or fatal disease in people with compromised immune systems and can also damage the fetuses of pregnant women. The parasites are globally distributed and enter water via infected cat feces.

"Chlorination does not kill T. gondii, but filtration eliminates them from the water supply," noted lead researcher Michael Grigg, Ph.D., of the NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases. Although S. neurona parasites do not infect people, other closely related species of Sarcocystis parasites do. "The public health message here is that people can easily avoid the parasites by filtering or boiling untreated water. Limiting serious disease in marine mammals, however, will require larger conservation efforts to block these land pathogens from flowing into our coastal waters."

EurekAlert! -
24 May 2011


Cited Journal Article
AK Gibson et al. Polyparasitism is associated with increased disease severity in Toxoplasma gondii-infected marine sentinel species. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001142 (2011).

New parasites found in frogs

University of Sydney researchers have identified two new parasite species causing disease among endangered Australian frogs. They say they are most likely native, overturning a commonly held view they were introduced with cane toads in 1935.

The parasites have so far been found in 10 frog species, including the iconic Green and Golden Bell Frog, the Southern Bell Frog and even the Yellow Spotted Bell Frog - a species presumed extinct for 30 years until recently.

These singled-celled myxosporean parasites have been identified in bell frog populations since 1997, says Ashlie Hartigan, a PhD student leading the research with Dr Jan Šlapeta from the Faculty of Veterinary Science, David Phalen, Director of the University of Sydney's Wildlife Health and Conservation Centre, and Karrie Rose from the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health.

"Infected frogs lose weight, are lethargic, and some can't move their back legs, making them more vulnerable to predators," Hartigan says. "Infection could also be reducing the number of tadpoles that become adults, with affected tadpoles more likely to delay metamorphosis and die from liver disease."

Science Alert -
26 May 2011