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.
Foxes in the city: citizen science helps researchers to study urban wildlife
14.12.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Machine learning helps predict worldwide plant-conservation priorities
04.12.2018 | Ohio State University
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy