September 29, 2011

Today's Wildlife Disease News Stories


Tularemia outbreak likely in Emporia

An individual in Emporia found eight dead rabbits in his yard over a period of time and contacted Wildlife and Parks. He collected the ninth animal, a squirrel, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) sent it to the Southeast Cooperative for Wildlife Disease Study.

According to Mark Ruder of the University of Georgia, a necropsy, Florescent Antibody Test and bacterial culture were initiated. The initial necropsy showed lesions on the liver and other organs consistent with Tularemia, a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. No human deaths have occurred in Lyon County. The Florescent Antibody Test came up positive for Tularemia. However, this test is known to have occasional false positives. The initial bacterial test also points to Tularemia.

… All testing has been stopped and it is likely that the cultures and tissue samples will be incinerated. The Office of Biosafety at the University of Georgia will not allow testing to continue and a decision is now being made as to whether or not the specimens should be forwarded to the Centers For Disease and Prevention(CDC). The Georgia lab is not set up for dealing with Tularemia so any subsequent testing will likely involve Kansas State University. SCWDS is in contact with the CDC. The KDHE has also been notified.

The Emporia Gazette -
28 Sept 2011
Location: Emporia, Kansas, USA - Map It


Scientists find frog genes that provide immunity to extinction plague

Scientists with Cornell have discovered genetics that may provide immunity to frogs in face of the killer amphibian-disease chytridiomycosis. This plague, which is spreading to amphibian populations worldwide, is responsible for a number of frog species' recent extinction. But now researchers report in a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that they are one step closer to understanding why some frog populations are able to fend off the disease, while others succumb with lightning-speed. In time, the results may lead to breeding strategies in captivity that could produce immune populations.

Researchers collected lowland leopard frogs (Lithobates yavapaiensis) from five populations in Arizona. In the lab they tested the frogs with chytridiomycosis, which is caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Three of the populations died, but two populations withstood the infection. Investigating the populations, researchers found that a particular genetic code within the frogs' major histocompatibility complex (MHC) may be key.

MHC is a protein in all vertebrates that alerts the body's immune system to disease; lead researcher, Ann Savage, explained to the BBC that MHC was like a 'gatekeeper' for immunity. However MHC is only capable of recognizing certain diseases: those it doesn't catch run amok. Capable of recognizing chytridiomycosis and fending it off, the surviving frogs had different genetic signatures than those who perished.

Monga Bay -
27 Sept 2011
J Hance


Little Tassie devils carry hope of species

Devil Ark, a project spearheaded by the Australian Reptile Park, officially opened at Barrington Tops last week and is the largest conservation breeding program for the devil on mainland Australia.

The brainchild of Reptile Park owner John Weigel, Devil Ark aims to save the marsupial from the highly contagious devil facial tumour disease which is threatening the species’ existence. While the project is still in its infancy, it isn’t the only thing at Devil Ark that is, with the unique site now home to an estimated 20 baby devils.

“It’s hard because the animals are in big free range enclosures and living in wombat holes and burrows and once they have their young we don’t like to trap their young to have a look at them, but the reality is there are probably about 20,” Mr Weigel said. The plan is to have 360 devils by the end of 2015 and so according to Mr Weigel they are on track, thanks to the Central Coast’s help.

Express Advocate -
28 Sept 2011


Photo courtesy of The Guardian