Deadly virus spreads among marine mammals as Arctic ice melts

Deadly virus spreads among marine mammals as Arctic ice melts

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: November 7, 2019 SNIP: When sea otters in Alaska were diagnosed with phocine distemper virus (PDV) in 2004, scientists were confused. The pathogen in the Morbillivirus genus that contains viruses like measles had then only been found in Europe and on the eastern coast of North America. “We didn’t understand how a virus from the Atlantic ended up in these sea otters. It’s not a species that ranges widely,” says Tracey Goldstein, a scientist at the University of California Davis who investigates how pathogens move through marine ecosystems. Using 15 years of data from 2001 to 2016, Goldstein and her research team were able to see upticks in PDV that corresponded with declines in Arctic sea ice. This new range for the otters likely allowed infected animals to move west, into new territories where the virus had not appeared before. The results of the study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, shows how climate change may be opening up new pathways for disease to spread. Phocine distemper virus was first detected in 1988 in northern Europe, where an estimated 18,000 seals died, most of them harbor seals. A similar outbreak occurred in 2002. It’s unclear where PDV originated. Some research has suggested it originated in the Arctic, but variations of distemper are found in dozens of animals. Local vets regularly vaccinate pet dogs against the canine version. And in seals, as with dogs, symptoms of the virus include difficulty breathing, discharge from the nose and eyes, fever, and in marine mammals, erratic swimming. To construct when and where PDV spread from northern Europe to...
Tourists may be making Antarctica’s penguins sick

Tourists may be making Antarctica’s penguins sick

SOURCE: Science Magazine DATE: December 13, 2018 SNIP: You can give your cat the flu. You can also pass pneumonia to a chimpanzee or tuberculosis to a bird. This kind of human-to-animal disease transmission, known as reverse zoonosis, has been seen on every continent except one: Antarctica. Now, human-linked pathogens in bird poop reveal, for the first time, that even animals on this isolated, ice-bound landmass can pick up a bug from tourists or visiting scientists. This newly identified infection route could have devastating consequences for Antarctic bird colonies, including population collapse and even extinction. From fecal samples, scientists isolated and identified bacterial species and compared them to strains in humans and domestic animals. DNA from Campylobacter jejuni, which causes food poisoning, was a close match for such strains, suggesting humans may be passing their bacteria on to local seabirds, the researchers report online in Science of the Total Environment. The presence of certain strains of Salmonella and an antimicrobial-resistant type of another gastrointestinal bug, C. lari, which was found in all four locations, supports that conclusion. “We often think of polar environments as being too cold and that disease transmission is not a huge threat, but the authors have clear evidence that … bacteria can spread widely in polar environments.” Jacob González-Solís, an environmental and evolutionary biologist from the University of Barcelona, predicts that, even though Salmonella and Campylobacter don’t kill most infected wildlife, the pathogens could have “devastating” consequences to Antarctic bird colonies, because this is the first time most birds there have been exposed to these...
Is Warming Bringing a Wave of New Diseases to Arctic Wildlife?

Is Warming Bringing a Wave of New Diseases to Arctic Wildlife?

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: November 6, 2018 SNIP: [A]s sea ice melts, ice-avoiding killer whales have been moving deeper into the Arctic Ocean, hunting and killing both narwhal and beluga whales. Other whale species — including minke, bottlenose, fin, and sperm whales — are also making their way north as the Arctic heats up. At the same time, on land, grizzly bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, and other animals and birds have been expanding their range into the warming boreal forest and Arctic tundra. For the indigenous people who subsist on Arctic animals such as muskoxen, caribou, seals, polar bears, and eider ducks — species that are in decline in some places — the newcomers are potentially a welcome addition to their diet. But emerging evidence suggests that some of these newly arriving species may be bringing rare or novel pathogens to the Arctic. In recent years, a plethora of deadly and debilitating diseases have struck reindeer in Scandinavia and Russia, muskoxen on Banks and Victoria islands in Arctic Canada, polar bears and seals off the coast of Alaska, and eider ducks in northern Hudson Bay and the Bering Sea. One possibility…is that climate warming and ecosystem changes are causing some bacteria, such as those that cause avian cholera, to mutate, or may be making Arctic animals more susceptible to pathogens that previously did them no serious harm. Another possibility being investigated by scientists is that bacteria such as anthrax — an outbreak of which resulted in the culling of 250,000 reindeer in western Siberia in 2016 and 2017 — are being liberated by rapidly thawing permafrost. Because most Arctic...
Climate change risk to Europe’s most dangerous pathogens revealed

Climate change risk to Europe’s most dangerous pathogens revealed

SOURCE: University of Liverpool DATE: Aug 2, 2017 SNIP: The impact of climate change on the emergence and spread of infectious diseases could be greater than previously thought, according to new research by the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health. The study, published in Scientific Reports, is the first large-scale assessment of how climate affects bacterium, viruses or other microorganisms and parasites (pathogens) that can cause disease in humans or animals in Europe. Diseases spread by insects and ticks (vector-borne diseases) were found to be the most climate sensitive, followed by those transmitted in soil, water and food. The diseases with the largest number of different climate drivers were Vibrio cholerae (cause of cholera), Fasciola hepatica (cause of liver fluke), Bacillus anthracis (cause of anthrax) and Borrelia burgdorferi (cause of tickborne Lyme...