Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Breaks in hibernation help fight bugs

18.08.2006
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:
http://www.cidd.psu.edu/
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists on the road to discovering impact of urban road dust
18.01.2018 | University of Alberta

nachricht Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

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: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>