Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Breaks In Hibernation Help Fight Bugs

Date:
August 18, 2006
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
A habit in some animals to periodically wake up while hibernating may be an evolutionary mechanism to fight bacterial infection, according to researchers at Penn State. The finding could offer an insight into the spread and emergence of infectious disease in wildlife, and has potential implications for human health.

A habit in some animals to periodically wake up while hibernating may be an evolutionary mechanism to fight bacterial infection, according to researchers at Penn State. The finding could offer an insight into the spread and emergence of infectious disease in wildlife, and has potential implications for human health.

Many warm-blooded animals slip into an inert sleep-like state as part of a unique strategy to get past harsh winters when food supplies are low and the need for energy to stay warm is high. The immune system is in sleep mode as well.

"The production of antibodies, and white blood cells is stopped. Basically all cell reproduction shuts off," says Angela Luis, a doctoral candidate in ecology at Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics.

However, animals regularly snap out of their torpor, and become fully active. But such sudden breaks from slumber eat into much of the animal's stored energy reserves, and it is not fully clear why the animals need to wake up, and how often

Some scientists think the answer lies in bacterial infections that could run rampant in the face of an immune system that is essentially asleep.

"Animals cannot tell when they need to wake up, or if they are infected," says Luis. If the animals hibernate for long they risk serious infection, she says, while waking up frequently wastes precious energy, and could prove fatal as well.

In other words, animals with an optimal time of torpor will win out over others, says Luis, who presented her findings at the 91st annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

Luis and her colleagues used a simple mathematical model that mimicked the growth of bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella in European ground squirrels, and how it affected their torpor patterns in relation to temperature.

Microbial growth depends on temperature. Most bacteria grow faster when it is warm and much slower when it is cold. For animals exposed to Salmonella, which multiplies rapidly in warm temperature, a regular break in hibernation would be an important adaptation to combat the germs, when experiencing a warmer winter. However, Salmonella doesn't thrive at very low temperatures, so when animals experience a particularly cold winter, these breaks wouldn't be crucial.

But if the animals were exposed to certain pathogens that thrive at low temperatures, like some E. coli, the animals would still have to regularly break their hibernation to ensure protection at all temperatures, Luis explains.

"Our model, which is confirmed by field data, shows that torpor patterns generally seen in some hibernating animals may be an evolutionary adaptation to help protect them from bacteria that grow well in low temperatures," says Luis.

The researchers suggest that an understanding of how pathogens interact with their hibernating hosts could provide valuable insight into the spread and emergence of zoonotic diseases.

The Penn State Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics is at http://www.cidd.psu.edu/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Breaks In Hibernation Help Fight Bugs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060818012803.htm>.
Penn State. (2006, August 18). Breaks In Hibernation Help Fight Bugs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060818012803.htm
Penn State. "Breaks In Hibernation Help Fight Bugs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060818012803.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins