Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Breaks in hibernation help fight bugs

A habit in some animals to periodically wake up while hibernating may be an evolutionary mechanism to fight bacterial infection, according to researchers at Penn State. The finding could offer an insight into the spread and emergence of infectious disease in wildlife, and has potential implications for human health.

Many warm-blooded animals slip into an inert sleep-like state as part of a unique strategy to get past harsh winters when food supplies are low and the need for energy to stay warm is high. The immune system is in sleep mode as well.

"The production of antibodies, and white blood cells is stopped. Basically all cell reproduction shuts off," says Angela Luis, a doctoral candidate in ecology at Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics.

However, animals regularly snap out of their torpor, and become fully active. But such sudden breaks from slumber eat into much of the animal's stored energy reserves, and it is not fully clear why the animals need to wake up, and how often

Some scientists think the answer lies in bacterial infections that could run rampant in the face of an immune system that is essentially asleep.

"Animals cannot tell when they need to wake up, or if they are infected," says Luis. If the animals hibernate for long they risk serious infection, she says, while waking up frequently wastes precious energy, and could prove fatal as well.

In other words, animals with an optimal time of torpor will win out over others, says Luis, who presented her findings at the 91st annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

Luis and her colleagues used a simple mathematical model that mimicked the growth of bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella in European ground squirrels, and how it affected their torpor patterns in relation to temperature.

Microbial growth depends on temperature. Most bacteria grow faster when it is warm and much slower when it is cold. For animals exposed to Salmonella, which multiplies rapidly in warm temperature, a regular break in hibernation would be an important adaptation to combat the germs, when experiencing a warmer winter. However, Salmonella doesn't thrive at very low temperatures, so when animals experience a particularly cold winter, these breaks wouldn't be crucial.

But if the animals were exposed to certain pathogens that thrive at low temperatures, like some E. coli, the animals would still have to regularly break their hibernation to ensure protection at all temperatures, Luis explains.

"Our model, which is confirmed by field data, shows that torpor patterns generally seen in some hibernating animals may be an evolutionary adaptation to help protect them from bacteria that grow well in low temperatures," says Luis.

The researchers suggest that an understanding of how pathogens interact with their hibernating hosts could provide valuable insight into the spread and emergence of zoonotic diseases.

Amitabh Avashti | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Second research flight into zero gravity

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

How Does Friendly Fire Happen in the Pancreas?

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>