Navigation Links
Study of deer mice on California's Channel Islands provides new information on hantavirus
Date:4/19/2011

A little information can go a long way when it comes to understanding rodent-borne infectious disease, as shown by a new study led by scientist John Orrock of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and colleagues.

The researchers studied wild deer mouse populations on the Channel Islands off the southern coast of California. The mice carry a variant of hantavirus--a disease spread by rodents--called Sin Nombre virus.

Results of the study appear in the May issue of the journal American Naturalist.

They show that just three ecological factors--rainfall, predator diversity and island size and shape--can account for nearly all the differences in infection rates between the eight islands.

The study also provides some of the first evidence to support a recent hypothesis that predators play an important ecological role in regulating disease--sometimes known as the "predators are good for your health" hypothesis.

"These findings support an emerging consensus that ecological factors such as food web structure and species diversity play a key role in determining the prevalence of zoonotic diseases and human health risk," says Alan Tessier, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

In humans, Sin Nombre virus causes Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, a virulent and often fatal disease.

An outbreak of Sin Nombre virus in 1993 in the Four Corners area of the U.S. Southwest killed several people and brought national attention to the disease.

Learning what factors control the prevalence and spread of viruses like Sin Nombre within host populations is crucial for understanding the risks of animal-borne diseases.

"The ecological underpinnings of disease prevalence, its dynamics in natural populations and its transmission from animals to humans are important links that are still being deciphered," says Orrock.

Mouse populations on the Channel Islands have some of the highest rates of Sin Nombre virus ever measured.

That, coupled with the isolation and well-defined food webs of the islands, makes them a good system to study what ecological factors affect the presence of the virus.

"The prevalence of disease was found to be a function of ecological variables that humans can measure," Orrock says. "What this illustrates is that if you know just a few things, you can have a reasonable shot of predicting the disease prevalence."

Working with Brian Allan from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Charles Drost from the U.S. Geological Survey's Southwest Biological Science Center, Orrock mined an existing dataset.

The data were collected on the Channel Islands shortly after the Four Corners outbreak, to look for relationships between biological and physical island characteristics and the prevalence of Sin Nombre on each of the eight islands.

The researchers found that 79 percent of the variation in disease prevalence among the islands could be explained by a single factor--average annual precipitation.

Adding in the physical characteristics of the islands and the number of predators accounted for a total of 98 percent of the variation.

Higher infection rates among Channel Island deer mice were strongly associated with more precipitation, larger island area and fewer predator species.

The strong effect of precipitation levels highlights potential links between changing climate regimes and human health.

The results also suggest that more diverse predator populations could help keep animal-borne diseases in check--an important lesson as top predators like wolves and bears increasingly disappear from ecosystems due to habitat loss and conflicts with humans.

The authors note that future studies should use experimental methods and examine larger systems to evaluate the generality of the observed patterns.

Nonetheless, the strength of the associations they found on the Channel Islands is striking.

"What's shocking about these data is how tight the relationship is," Orrock says.

"Rarely in ecology do you find that one variable will explain 79 percent of the variation in anything.

"The fact that precipitation does here, and that adding the effects of predator richness and island characteristics explains nearly all the variation in disease prevalence on these eight islands, suggests that we're getting to the heart of some basic ecological principles."


'/>"/>

Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. VIMS study: Propeller turbulence may affect marine food webs
2. Reptilian root canal: U of T Mississauga study reveals infection in jaw of ancient fossil
3. Nationwide study finds US meat and poultry is widely contaminated
4. New study finds stronger regulations of in vitro fertilization may save lives
5. Study: Algae could replace 17 percent of US oil imports
6. Scots carbon emissions could be halved in decades, study suggests
7. Alcohol helps the brain remember, says new study
8. Study provides new way to classify E. coli bacteria and test for fecal contamination
9. UNC study helps clarify link between high-fat diet and type 2 diabetes
10. Clinical study suggests estrogen levels and breast health can be altered
11. New genetic study helps to solve Darwins mystery about the ancient evolution of flowering plants
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/26/2016)... and LONDON , ... Finacle, part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary ... Onegini today announced a partnership to integrate the ...      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) ... provide their customers enhanced security to access and ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... 2016 Research and Markets has ... Market 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  , ... ,The global gait biometrics market is expected to ... period 2016-2020. Gait analysis generates multiple ... used to compute factors that are not or ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... R.I. , March 31, 2016  Genomics firm ... of founding CEO, Barrett Bready , M.D., who ... members of the original technical leadership team, including Chief ... President of Product Development, Steve Nurnberg and Vice President ... returned to the company. Dr. Bready served ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/25/2016)... Bangkok, Thailand (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 ... ... the participation of a Thai delegation at BIO 2016 in San Francisco. Located ... private sector will be available to answer questions and discuss the Thai biotechnology ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... Scientists at ... line options being tried for mesothelioma may be hampering the research that could lead ... research. Click here to read it now. , The team evaluated 98 ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 24, 2016 , ... ... attacks, diabetes, and traumatic injuries, will be accelerated by research at Worcester Polytechnic ... into engines of wound healing and tissue regeneration. , The novel method, developed ...
(Date:5/23/2016)... Antonio, Texas (PRWEB) , ... May 23, 2016 , ... The need for blood donations ... released this week by the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, blood donations are on ... than 30 years, and they are down 21 percent in South Texas in the last ...
Breaking Biology Technology: