February 14, 2013

A fungus among us is killing snakes and other wildlife disease related news


A fungus among us is killing snakes

...New Jersey’s two venomous snakes, the timber rattlesnake and northern copperhead, have been persecuted by four centuries of human habitation. Now a spreading fungal infection poses a new threat.

Chrysosporium, a common fungus, was initially reported some 15 years ago in reptiles in Canada. It has now reached New Jersey. This fungus was initially thought to target only rattlesnakes, but it was confirmed during the winter of 2010-11 in our state’s rare northern copperhead.

Since 2011, a state biologist and volunteers have observed multiple timber rattlesnakes, black rat snakes, black racers and eastern garter snakes with symptoms representative of the Chrysosporium fungal dermatitis. Preliminary tests on a black rat snake and a black racer showed the same fungus.

Symptoms include deformed, misshapen or damaged facial pit organs in rattlesnakes and copperheads, and necrotic facial tissue, facial lesions, and deformed or damaged eyes, nostrils and mouths in all snake species. The infection eventually leads to emaciation and death.

...Chrysosporium is naturally occurring, but it’s a mystery as to why snakes are suddenly unable to defend themselves from it.

Has something changed within the fungus to make it more harmful? Has something changed in the environment to weaken the snakes’ immune response? Has the pet trade, or movement of wild animals by well-meaning reptile hobbyists, allowed different strains of the fungus to meet, accidentally breeding a more harmful fungal strain?

States are working on a grant to conduct further research, with the hope of finding a way to inhibit the impacts of the fungus and protect the snakes.

Daily Record - www.dailyrecord.com
11 Feb 2013
MS Byers
Location: New Jersey, USA

Study shows disease spread in ladybirds with sexually transmitted disease

A study at the University of Liverpool into the spread of sexually transmitted infection in ladybirds [or ladybugs] has shown that disease risk to large populations cannot be predicted without a full understanding of the disease dynamics at small geographical scale.

Scientists investigated a virulent form of infection in the central and northern European populations of the two-spot ladybird to understand the conditions that favoured disease spread. Researchers found that disease burden in two locations of the same habitat – the lime tree - were very different, despite being within 12km of each other.

It is expected that disease epidemics will vary over space, but variation at small local scale, however, was not predicted because it is generally thought that insects move easily and regularly amongst habitats, taking infection with them.

The Liverpool team found that there were significant differences between disease outbreak sites that were close to each other, which were caused by differences in mating rates across habitats.

The study showed that a healthy supply of food increased the mating frequency of ladybirds, and therefore encouraged disease spread. Ladybirds with less food supply, however, mate less frequently and did not experience the same high rate of infection.

The research highlights that disease epidemics cannot be predicted or understood fully without sampling the infection at small spatial scales. Researchers showed that pulling together information about the local population, such as food supply and mating habits, is essential in order to build a more accurate picture of disease dynamics in the wider population.

EurekAlert - www.eurekalert.org
07 Feb 2013
Location: Europe

Forensic pathology: tracing the origin of the Usutu Virus

The effects were dramatic: throughout Vienna it was impossible not to notice that the blackbirds were disappearing. Their melodious song no longer rang around the courtyards of the inner city nor woke tired partygoers in the outlying districts. The birds were simply no longer there. Thankfully, they gradually reappeared and a few years later their population had returned to its original levels. But the sudden crash in numbers was alarming and scientists rushed to find the cause.

It soon became apparent that the birds had died as a result of a new kind of viral infection. The culprit turned out to be the Usutu virus, which had previously been identified only in Africa and had only seldom been associated with mortality in animals or birds. It was widely assumed that the virus had crossed from Africa to central Europe with the help of migratory birds – the Barn swallow was generally fingered as the most likely transmitter – and that such sudden outbreaks would appear more frequently as the result of climate change. But these conclusions have been called into question by the latest findings from a team at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna).

Although not widely reported at the time, a large number of birds, especially blackbirds, died in Tuscany, Italy in 1996, five years before the outbreak of Usutu virus in Vienna's blackbirds....

As Weissenböck says, "We still do not fully understand how the virus reached Austria but we have at least uncovered one piece in the jigsaw. Rather than coming directly from Africa to Vienna, the Usutu virus seems to have been present in Italy for some time." The powerful techniques of forensic pathology may be helpful in unravelling the origins of other emerging diseases: for example, we still do not know how the bluetongue virus reached northern Germany or the West Nile virus arrived in central Europe.

EurekAlert - www.eurekalert.org
08 Feb 2013
Location: Vienna, Italy

UW’s veterinary medical school adopts wildlife health project

Hey! An Article about Us!

 The Wildlife Data Integration Network project was created to provide timely information to better understand wildlife disease ecology, and to aid decision making and responses to outbreaks of disease in wildlife.

...In August of 2012, to further its efforts, the project moved to UW-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine, where it is led by Kurt Sladky, who directs the school's zoological medicine program and the Special Species Health Service.

"Data and information about new and ongoing wildlife health events, as well as news articles, research updates and other items of interest to the wildlife health community, are aggregated, standardized and made available to anyone," notes Marsh, who explains that users include resource managers, public health officials, domestic animal veterinarians, wildlife disease specialists and the public. "The primary purpose is to provide situational awareness for those who are interested in learning where wildlife disease occurs."

University of Wisconsin - Madison News - www.news.wisc.edu
13 Feb 2013
T Devitt

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