Researchers in British Columbia, Canada, have used a technique known as ecological niche modeling to identify likely areas where a potentially lethal fungus could spread next. Cryptococcus gattii, which can cause life-threatening infections of the lungs and central nervous system when inhaled, infects humans as well as a broad range of wild and domestic animals.
In a study published in the May 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Canadian researchers found that the optimal ecological niche areas of the fungus in British Columbia are limited to the central and southeastern coasts of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast, and the Vancouver Lower Mainland. Although this represents less than 2 percent of the province’s land area, two-thirds of British Columbia’s population lives there, the authors noted. They hypothesized that the San Juan Islands and Puget Trough of Washington State and the Willamette Valley of Oregon may become endemic areas for the fungus, whose spores are dispersed by the wind, animals, and humans.
The study is important because C. gattii is expanding into new ecological areas, making its spread difficult to predict. Once thought to be limited to tropical and subtropical regions, including Australia, Africa, Italy, South America, and Southern California, the fungus now is found in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Reports elsewhere suggest the fungus may have been exported from its native habitat on commercially valuable trees such as eucalyptus and several ornamental species.
C. gattii appeared on Vancouver Island in 1999, and by the end of 2008 it had sickened more than 240 humans and 360 animals, giving British Columbia one of the highest incidences and largest multispecies outbreaks of cryptococcosis in the world, the study recounted. Approximately 25 new human cases of cryptococcosis are now identified each year in British Columbia.
Because field sampling for the presence of a pathogen across a province of nearly 945,000 square kilometers (about 365,000 square miles) is not feasible, the authors theorized that a more practical solution would be to use ecological niche modeling, which analyzes data collected through human and animal surveillance and environmental sampling. For the model they built, which outlined where the fungus is currently established and forecast where it might spread, the researchers reported a predictive accuracy exceeding 98 percent.
The optimal niche for C. gattii is characterized by elevations averaging 100 meters above sea level, daily January average temperatures higher than 0°C (32°F), and location within biogeoclimatic zones populated by specific types of trees, according to the authors, who include Sunny Mak, Brian Klinkenberg, Karen Bartlett, and Murray Fyfe.
“Ecological niche modeling, traditionally developed for biodiversity and conservation research, recently has been employed by public health to predict the geographic risk of infectious diseases,” Mak explains. “This is a new tool that we have to inform strategies for disease surveillance, environmental sampling, and public and physician awareness of Cryptococcus gattii infections.”
The full research article, “Ecological Niche Modeling of Cryptococcus gattii in British Columbia, Canada,” is available on the EHP website at http://ehponline.org/article/info:doi/10.1289/ehp.0901448.
EHP is published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. EHP is an open-access journal. More information is available online at http://www.ehponline.org. Brogan & Partners Convergence Marketing handles marketing and public relations for the publication and is responsible for creation and distribution of this press release.
| Newswise Science News
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy