Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists cage dead zebras in Africa to understand the spread of anthrax

23.04.2013
Infected zebra were left where they fell, but protected by electrified cage exclosures

Scavengers might not play as key a role in spreading anthrax through wildlife populations as previously assumed, according to findings from a small study conducted in Etosha National Park in northern Namibia.

Wildlife managers currently spend large amounts of money and time to control anthrax outbreaks by preventing scavengers from feeding on infected carcasses.

The effort might be ill spent, according to results published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology by an international consortium of researchers led by Steven Bellan, an ecologist at The University of Texas at Austin.

Carrion produced by anthrax deaths feeds many scavengers, including jackals, hyena, vultures, marabou storks and occasionally even lions. These scavengers have evolved to be able to digest infected carrion without contracting the infection. Herbivorous animals more vulnerable to anthrax include zebra, springboks, elephants and wildebeest.

It has been thought that scavengers change the environment in which the anthrax bacteria are living by opening herbivores' carcasses, enabling more production of spores — the infectious life stage of the anthrax bacteria.

"The hypothesis is that when a carcass is intact, the anthrax bacteria are forced into a kind of death match with putrefying bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract," said Bellan, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of biologist Lauren Ancel Meyers. "But when the body is opened to the air, either by a scavenger or the hemorrhaging from all bodily orifices that occurs at death, the anthrax bacteria can escape that competition and more successfully produce spores."

According to this hypothesis, the scavenging also allows the carcasses' bodily fluids to leak into the soil, leading to more spores contaminating the soil. Combined, this might increase the likelihood of spread to vulnerable herbivores as they move and eat among the grasses.

In order to test the hypothesis, the researchers found seven zebra and one wildebeest that had just died in the wild from anthrax infection. All of the carcasses were left where they fell, but four were protected from scavengers by electrified cage exclosures. The other four were left completely open to the elements.

"The goal was to allow the carcasses to exist in as natural a state as possible, while preventing scavenging," Bellan said.

Samples were then taken at regular intervals to see whether there was greater anthrax spore production in the scavenged carcasses and in the nearby soil.

The researchers found that anthrax sporulation and contamination happened to a similar degree at both the scavenged and unscavenged carcasses.

"It appears that the anthrax bacteria can survive for some time in the carcass even though it may be competing with other bacteria," said Bellan. "It also appears that fluids can escape from the carcass into the soil via mechanisms other than scavenging or through hemorrhages occurring at the time of death. It looks like bloating caused by gases produced during putrefaction and maggot feeding activity are capable of independently rupturing carcass skin."

Bellan cautions that the experiment was a limited one, conducted on a small number of samples. But he said it does suggest a need for some re-evaluation of practices aimed at keeping scavengers away from anthrax carcasses.

Steve Bellan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utexas.edu/

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>