September 30, 2013

Counting on parasite warning signals and more wildlife disease news


Prions in plants? New concern for chronic wasting disease

Prions — the infectious, deformed proteins that cause chronic wasting disease in deer — can be taken up by plants such as alfalfa, corn and tomatoes, according to new research from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison.

The research further demonstrated that stems and leaves from tainted plants were infectious when injected into laboratory mice.

The findings are significant, according to the researchers and other experts, because they reveal a previously unknown potential route of exposure to prions for a Wisconsin deer herd in which the fatal brain illness continues to spread. The disease has also become a pressing issue nationwide: The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified the deer disease in 17 states and predicts it will spread to other states.

LaCrosse Tribune
28 Sep 2013
R Seely

Missouri Ponds Provide Clue to Killer Frog Disease

he skin fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), also known as amphibian chytrid, first made its presence felt in 1993 when dead and dying frogs began turning up in Queensland, Australia. Since then it has sickened and killed frogs, toads, salamanders and other amphibians worldwide, driving hundreds of species to extinction.

As a postdoctoral researcher Kevin Smith studied Bd in South Africa, home to the African clawed frog, a suspected vector for the fungus. When he took a position at Washington University in St. Louis, where he is now interim director of the Tyson Research Center and adjunct professor of biology, he worked on other problems.
But whenever he visited a pond, he collected tadpoles and checked their mouth parts (often a fungal hot spot) under the microscope, just out of curiosity.

..."I was half expecting it to be just an absolute mess, that there would be no distinguishing characteristic about ponds that have chytrid or ponds that don't," he said. "But instead, we found that the ponds that had chytrid were consistently more similar to one another than the ponds that didn't have chytrid in many different measures."

Science Daily New
25 Sep 2013

Cited Journal Article
Alex Strauss, Kevin G. Smith. Why Does Amphibian Chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) Not Occur Everywhere? An Exploratory Study in Missouri Ponds. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (9): e76035 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076035

Counting on parasite warning signals

Wildlife researchers are counting on parasites to be the warning signals for the health conditions of endangered Bornean elephants.

Scientists from the research NGO Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Imperial College recently completed a joint study and published a paper on the first parasitological study on wild Bornean elephants.

“Endoparasites (parasites found in the body of an animal) can have an important influence on fitness and survival, particularly in a small population of endangered species such as the Bornean elephant,” said DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens.

“They can serve as a non-invasive warning system for wildlife and habitat health because environmental changes impact upon hosts, parasites and their shared environment,” added Goossens.

The Star Online
28 Sep 2013
R Sario

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