November 14, 2013

Drug-Resistant Germs Bred In Humans Show Up In Wild Animals and other wildlife disease news stories


Galápagos finches that inspired Darwin under threat from parasitical flies

Species found during historic HMS Beagle voyage and central to naturalist's theory of evolution now endangered

The Galápagos finches are part of the history of science. Darwin collected them during the round-the-world voyage of HMS Beagle and their study helped the naturalist conceive the theory of evolution. Although all the birds belonged to a single group, the 14 species were spread across different islands in the archipelago. Darwin developed the idea that geographical isolation and exposure to varying environmental conditions explained why they had evolved differently from a common ancestor. In particular he emphasised the divergent form of their beaks, some suited to a seed-based diet, while others adapted to eating plants or insects.

But this natural habitat is endangered. The International Union for Conservation of Nature now lists two of the finch species as critically endangered. In several other cases the population is in decline. The most severe threat to their existence seems to be a common fly from Brazil and other South American countries, Philornis downsi, which was accidentally introduced to the islands in the 1960s.

The flies lay eggs in the finches' nests that hatch into larvae. In turn these find their way into the nasal cavity of the fledglings, leading to deformation of the beak. At night they feed on their blood, sapping their energy to such an extent that some of them die – as many as a third in the case of the mangrove finches, according to a recent article by Elizabeth Kolbert, published in the Yale Environment 360 online magazine.

The Guardian
01 Nov 2013
H Morin

Mysterious Disease Turning Sea Stars to Goo May Disrupt Tidal Ecosystems

A mysterious disease that has turned hundreds of starfish into limp lumps of goo along both the East and West coasts in recent months could potentially induce a cascade of other ecological effects in tidal systems, researchers say.

The disease — known as sea star wasting syndrome — begins as a small lesion, and eventually results in the loss of limbs and ultimate disintegration and death of the leggy animal. The cause of the disease remains unknown to researchers, who have not been able to determine if it is related to a bacterial infection, a virus or a combination of effects worsened by environmental stressors, such as increased water temperature.

The syndrome has afflicted sea star populations on the West Coast in the past, and in those instances, populations eventually bounced back, Smithsonian invertebrate zoologist Christopher Mah told LiveScience. But this current episode appears more severe than previous cases, killing up to 95 percent of some populations consisting of hundreds of individuals, ...

Live Science
08 Nov 2013
L Poppick
Location: USA and Canada - Map It 

Drug-Resistant Germs Bred In Humans Show Up In Wild Animals

Source:Environmental Health News
A new study finds a hospital superbug in crows.

Crows don't often hang out in hospitals, where the overuse of antibiotics has created drug-resistant germs. Yet crows in some areas of the U.S. carry drug-resistant bacteria in their bodies, according to a new study. Poop from about 2.5 percent of the crows studied had microbes that were resistant to a drug of last resort for infections in hospitals, Environmental Health News reports.

The crow survey adds to a growing body of evidence that so-called superbugs have reached wild animals. Environmental Health News links to studies that have found drug-resistant microbes in everything from houseflies to whales.

There's not yet research showing how exactly crows' and other animals' carrying superbugs will affect human health, veterinary research scientist Julie Ellis told Environmental Health News. But researchers think wild animals could help spread drug resistance worldwide. Crows could carry their bugs everywhere they fly. Environmental Health News has a nice graphic showing how drug-resistant germs spread between different places, including how crows could have picked up a hospital bug.

Popular Science
08 Nov 2013
F Diep

Cited Journal Article
Oravcova V, Zurek L, Townsend A, Clark AB, Ellis JC, Cizek A, Literak I. American crows as carriers of vancomycin-resistant enterococci with vanA gene. Environ Microbiol. 2013 Jul 16. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.12213. [Epub ahead of print]

Dolphin-Killing Virus Spreads South, May Be Infecting Whales Too

A viral outbreak that’s killing bottlenose dolphins is moving down the U.S. East Coast as the animals migrate south for the winter. Between July 1 and November 3, at least 753 animals have died.

...The die-off has already been classified as an Unusual Mortality Event by the federal government – a designation that frees up resources and sends investigators and responders to the hardest-hit areas. It’s already exceeded the pace set by the last major morbillivirus outbreak on the East Coast, an event that lasted for 11 months, between June 1987 and May 1988, and ultimately claimed 742 dolphins.

... Indeed, there’s something in the mix this time around that could be even more worrying. Other species have been showing up dead with dolphin morbillivirus in their tissues. Since July, three out of four dead humpback whales (in Massachusetts, Virginia, and North Carolina), and a two out of three dead pygmy sperm whales (in Georgia and Massachusetts) have tested positive for the pathogen.

Dolphin morbillivirus isn’t often reported in these species. Whether the whales are dead because of a morbillivirus infection – or simply exposed to it – is still unknown.

11 Nov 2013
N Drake

Bat Health News
One Health News Corner
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