Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

An avian flu that jumps from birds to mammals is killing New England's baby seals

Date:
July 31, 2012
Source:
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Summary:
A novel avian influenza virus has acquired the ability to infect aquatic mammals and was responsible for an outbreak of fatal pneumonia that recently struck harbor seals in New England, according to scientists.

Harbor seal.
Credit: electrochris / Fotolia

A novel avian influenza virus has acquired the ability to infect aquatic mammals and was responsible for an outbreak of fatal pneumonia that recently struck harbor seals in New England, according to scientists at the Center for Infection & Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, New England Aquarium, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, SeaWorld and EcoHealth Alliance.

This research is published in mBio.

Wildlife officials first became concerned in September 2011, when seals with severe pneumonia and skin lesions suddenly appeared along the coastline from southern Maine to northern Massachusetts. Most were infants (less than 6 months), and a total of 162 dead or moribund seals were recovered over the next 3 months.

Pathogen screening was conducted in a subset of afflicted seals, using sensitive diagnostic tools developed at the CII, and a new strain of avian H3N8 influenza virus was identified as a culprit.

"When initial tests revealed an avian influenza virus, we asked the obvious question: how did this virus jump from birds to seals?" says Simon Anthony, D.Phil, postdoctoral research scientist at the CII and the lead author of the study.

Based on full genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis, seal H3N8 descended from an avian strain that has been circulating in North American waterfowl since 2002, which implies recent transmission from wild birds to seals.

Accordingly, seal H3N8 has acquired the ability to bind sialic acid receptors that are commonly found in the mammalian respiratory tract. Mutations in the HA and PB2 genes -- required for cell entry and replication, respectively -- suggest enhanced virulence and transmission in mammals, but these putative attributes require further investigation. Given these findings along with the long history of the spread of avian influenza to humans -- most notably H1N1 and H5N1 -- seal H3N8 could pose a threat to public health.

"Our findings reinforce the importance of wildlife surveillance in predicting and preventing pandemics, says W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology, at the Mailman School of Public Health. "HIV/AIDS, SARS, West Nile, Nipah and influenza are all examples of emerging infectious diseases that originated in animals. Any outbreak of disease in domestic animals or wildlife, while an immediate threat to wildlife conservation, must also be considered potentially hazardous to humans."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. J. Anthony, J. A. St. Leger, K. Pugliares, H. S. Ip, J. M. Chan, Z. W. Carpenter, I. Navarrete-Macias, M. Sanchez-Leon, J. T. Saliki, J. Pedersen, W. Karesh, P. Daszak, R. Rabadan, T. Rowles, and W. I. Lipkin. Emergence of Fatal Avian Influenza in New England Harbor Seals. mBio, July/August 2012 DOI: 10.1128/%u200BmBio.00166-12

Cite This Page:

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "An avian flu that jumps from birds to mammals is killing New England's baby seals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120731094749.htm>.
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. (2012, July 31). An avian flu that jumps from birds to mammals is killing New England's baby seals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120731094749.htm
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "An avian flu that jumps from birds to mammals is killing New England's baby seals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120731094749.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
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:

More Coverage


New Influenza Virus from Seals Highlights the Risks of Pandemic Flu from Animals

July 31, 2012 A new strain of influenza virus found in harbor seals could represent a threat to wildlife and human health, according to ... read more
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