However, clues may come from examination of specimens from similar outbreaks. This approach has recently been taken by scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna to trace the origin of the virus that caused a sudden decrease in the number of blackbirds in Vienna in 2001. The results are published in the current issue of the journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases”.
The effects were dramatic: throughout Vienna it was impossible not to notice that the blackbirds were disappearing. Their melodious song no longer rang around the courtyards of the inner city nor woke tired partygoers in the outlying districts. The birds were simply no longer there. Thankfully, they gradually reappeared and a few years later their population had returned to its original levels. But the sudden crash in numbers was alarming and scientists rushed to find the cause.
It soon became apparent that the birds had died as a result of a new kind of viral infection. The culprit turned out to be the Usutu virus, which had previously been identified only in Africa and had only seldom been associated with mortality in animals or birds. It was widely assumed that the virus had crossed from Africa to central Europe with the help of migratory birds – the Barn swallow was generally fingered as the most likely transmitter – and that such sudden outbreaks would appear more frequently as the result of climate change. But these conclusions have been called into question by the latest findings from a team at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna).
Although not widely reported at the time, a large number of birds, especially blackbirds, died in Tuscany, Italy in 1996, five years before the outbreak of Usutu virus in Vienna’s blackbirds. The causative agent was not identified but Giacomo Rossi of the University of Camerino had stored tissue samples from the dead birds. Herbert Weissenböck, Norbert Nowotny and colleagues in the Institute of Pathology and the Institute of Virology at the Vetmeduni Vienna recently became aware of the samples’ existence and were naturally keen to investigate them. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the Italian samples contained exactly the same strain of Usutu virus that was responsible for the Viennese cases. As in Vienna, the birds were almost wiped out by the virus but resistance soon developed and the population returned to normal levels.
As Weissenböck says, “We still do not fully understand how the virus reached Austria but we have at least uncovered one piece in the jigsaw. Rather than coming directly from Africa to Vienna, the Usutu virus seems to have been present in Italy for some time.” The powerful techniques of forensic pathology may be helpful in unravelling the origins of other emerging diseases: for example, we still do not know how the bluetongue virus reached northern Germany or the West Nile virus arrived in central Europe.
The paper Usutu virus, Italy, 1996 by Herbert Weissenböck, Tamás Bakonyi, Giacomo Rossi, Paolo Mani and Norbert Nowotny has just been published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases (Vol. 19(2), February 2013: 274-277).
Herbert Weissenböck | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.vetmeduni.ac.at
Further Reports about: African public sector > Emerging Infectious Diseases > forensic > Infectious Diseases > infectious outbreaks > Medicine > Usutu > Veterinary Medicine > Veterinary Public Health > Vetmeduni > Virus
More articles from Life Sciences:
New genetic research finds shark, human proteins stunningly similar
06.12.2013 | Cornell University
Prostate cancer biomarker may predict patient outcomes
06.12.2013 | Vanderbilt University Medical Center
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
A genetic defect protects mice from infection with influenza viruses
A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens points out that mice lacking a protein called Tmprss2 are no longer affected by certain flu viruses.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in collaboration with colleagues from Göttingen and ...
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived.
Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually ...
A star is formed when a large cloud of gas and dust condenses and eventually becomes so dense that it collapses into a ball of gas, where the pressure heats the matter, creating a glowing gas ball – a star is born.
New research from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, shows that a young, newly formed star in the Milky Way had such an explosive growth, that it was initially about 100 times brighter than it is now. The results are published in the scientific journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The young ...
06.12.2013 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2013 | Life Sciences
06.12.2013 | Life Sciences
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News
12.11.2013 | Event News