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 August 22, 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 August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. 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