Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Home run' study on spread of disease published

20.12.2006
A paper that authors are calling a "home run" study on the spread of disease is published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The study traces -- through genetic analysis -- the accidental introduction of invasive snails with parasitic flatworms. The invaders were probably transported with Japanese seed oysters imported into the waters of the Pacific Northwest over a century ago. It is the first comprehensive genetic analysis of an invasive marine host and its parasites. The study points to broad implications for identifying and mitigating spreading disease in a globalized economy.

Understanding the invasion pathways of disease-causing organisms and their hosts is key in limiting future disease outbreaks — in humans, in agriculture, and in wildlife.

Co-author Armand Kuris, professor of zoology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is one of a handful of experts who have been studying the ecology of parasites since the 1960s, an area of research that Kuris reports is understudied because parasites are so often invisible. He calls this PNAS paper a home run because it describes a complete picture of biological invasions. He explained that the imported snail has wiped out the native snails, changing the ecosystems of the Northwest.

"Little did the American oystermen of the early 1900s know that their activities could impact local fisheries one hundred years later," said Kuris. "Oyster aquaculture brought in many exotic species, including clams, worms, and snails. Importation was done in a crude and sloppy manner; there was little government regulation of these things at the time."

Invasive North American populations of Asian mud snails, Batillaria attramentaria, probably arrived with Pacific oysters, Crassostrea gigas, imported from northern Japan in the early 1900s, according to the scientists. Genetic research has now confirmed this. The team included first author Osamu Miura, a scientist with Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan; colleagues from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI); and, scientists from UC Santa Barbara.

"We saw a lot of genetic variation among snail populations in Japan but the North American snails are genetically most similar to those from northern Japan, the source of the imported oysters," Miura reports.

"Using genetics we have shown how the pest snail was introduced and that it came with a parasite that infects fishes and birds," said Mark Torchin, a biologist with STRI. Later, a second parasite came that was spread by migratory birds that ate the infected fish in Japan. The process shows that establishment of an invasive pest can lead to later establishment of disease organisms.

Ryan F. Hechinger, a doctoral student at UCSB, explained how the parasitic flatworm, or trematode, castrates the snail, replacing the gonads with its own mass. "The infected snail will never again make snail babies," said Hechinger. "It is now a parasite making machine. It’s basically a robot driven by the parasite."

Hechinger explained that this is the first time that scientists have examined an invasion of a host and a parasite. Migrating birds are bringing one of the trematode parasites; they ingest them when they eat infected fish. The host is a particular snail –- only one species is vulnerable –– and it is used as an intermediate host. The trematode moves on from the snail to burrow into fish. The trematode has permeated the ecosystem’s fish.

Of the eight species of trematode parasites that plague the snails in Japan, only the most common, Cercaria batillariae, has arrived in America. Gene sequencing showed that this single species actually consisted of several cryptic, or similar looking but genetically distinct, species in its home range in Japan. In North America, they commonly found two of the species. One parasite shows much less genetic diversity in America than in Japan, whereas the other parasite is equally diverse in both regions.

"Genetic evidence suggests that while one cryptic parasite species experienced a bottleneck and probably came with the snails, the other was probably historically dispersed by migratory birds and could only establish in North America after the snail hosts arrived," added Torchin. "This is because these trematode parasites have complex life cycles, using snails as first intermediate hosts, fishes as second intermediate hosts and birds as final hosts. As we homogenize biotas as a result of repeated species invasions through global trade, we increase the chances of reuniting infectious agents with suitable hosts."

Parasites which may have historically gone unnoticed as "tourists" in some regions may become pervasive residents after invasion of their missing hosts.

Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsb.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>