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March of the pathogens: Parasite metabolism can foretell disease ranges under climate change
Date:2/25/2013

The researchers tested their model on Ostertagia gruehneri, a species of nematode, or roundworm, that lives in the Arctic. Among the world's most widespread parasites, the larval stages of parasitic roundworms are free-living in the environment or utilize a cold-blooded intermediate host, while the adult stages live within their final hosts, and may cause conditions such as trichinosis.

Hoar and Kutz had reared O. gruehneri larvae in various temperatures, and recorded their development and survival. Molnr and Dobson found that these observations correlated extremely well with how their metabolic model predicted the species would respond to increased Arctic temperatures. Under future conditions, the parasite's infectious season could split from what is now a continuous spring-to-fall transmission season into two longer fall and spring seasons separated by a hot, unlivable summer.

While the seasonal life of a nematode might seem trivial, what affects the parasite affects the host, Molnr said. The researchers are broadening their model to gauge how O. gruehneri's new active seasons would alter the relationship with its primary host, the caribou. They also are investigating the recent range expansion of a nematode with a penchant for the lungs of muskoxen, a wooly bovine native to the Arctic.

Molnr and his colleagues want to know what further population growth could be expected from these parasites as the Arctic climate continues to warm, and the eventual toll that would have on caribou and muskoxen herds.


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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mgnkelly@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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