These insights will be published on January 31, 2007 in PLoS ONE, the International, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication from the Public Library of Science (PLoS) by scientists from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and the Department of Virology of the Erasmus MC. This contrasts previous ideas that mild forms of bird flu do not cause illness among wild birds. Moreover, these patterns can affect the rate of spread of avian influenza.
Wild birds were thought not to suffer from mild forms of avian influenza. But new data suggest that so-called ‘low-pathogenic’ avian influenza viruses do affect the lives of birds. The Bewick’s swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii) is a migratory bird that breeds in NW-Russia and overwinters in NW-Europe, especially in The Netherlands. In this species, a team of ecologists and virologists showed that infected individuals initiate their migration by the end of January or early February, while uninfected individuals already do so by the end of December. Also, their next ‘fuelling station’ is only 35 km away instead of the usual 250 km. Sick birds fuel at a lower rate: they take fewer bites per day and their digestion seems to be impaired. Presumably, this is due to their need to channel more energy towards their immune system.
Being ill is no fun for us, but for a migratory bird being ill could potentially mess up its whole calendar for the rest of the year. According to scientist Jan van Gils from NIOO, “Infected swans clearly suffer from their ‘mild’ disease. The late departure from the wintering grounds could lead to late arrival in the breeding grounds, and thus to a lost breeding season. All in all, these low-pathogenic viruses have a much greater impact than previously thought. Because of their slower migration, ill birds get in touch with many more healthy birds passing by them on migration. In this way the virus can spread itself more rapidly than previously thought.”
Acquiring more knowledge about mild but illness-causing avian influenza viruses is very important. Van Gils adds, “These mild virus-types always formed the origin of massive pandemics such as the Spanish Flu. Only such viruses that are non-lethal to birds can be spread easily by (wild or captive) birds, simply because the birds stay alive.” Only after mixing with human flu can such a low-pathogenic avian flu cause the nightmare of a deadly pandemic among humans. “High-pathogenic avian flu that causes death among birds seems to originate from intensive poultry farms.”
In the Dutch study 25 swans were investigated. The birds were caught in polder Wieringermeer (NW-Netherlands) last winter and were measured, weighed and screened for the prevalence of avian influenza viruses. Twelve birds were equipped with a GPS attached to their neck collar (80 g in total). This enabled the researchers to follow the birds’ movements in great detail. When within 300 m of the bird, all “travel data” were downloadable by wireless modern technology. Birds were found back by volunteer bird watchers reading and reporting the code on each bird’s neck collar. Among the twelve neck-collared birds, two were infected with bird flu: type H6N2 and H6N8. These mild virus types are common among free-living waterfowl. From antibodies found back in blood samples it could be concluded that a few more individuals had been infected before but were fully recovered and behaved as the other healthy birds. Both birds that were infected last winter have returned this winter and seem fully recovered too.
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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...
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...
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.
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In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
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...
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