Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


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

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:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

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...

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

Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Deep down fracking wells, microbial communities thrive

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>