Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Forensic pathology: Tracing the origin of the Usutu virus in blackbirds

Date:
February 8, 2013
Source:
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Summary:
It is generally a mystery how new diseases arise and how the pathogens that cause them first enter countries.  However, clues may come from examination of specimens from similar outbreaks.  This approach has recently been taken by scientists in order to trace the origin of the virus that caused a sudden decrease in the number of blackbirds in Vienna in 2001. 

It is generally a mystery how new diseases arise and how the pathogens that cause them first enter countries. However, clues may come from examination of specimens from similar outbreaks. This approach has recently been taken by scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna to trace the origin of the virus that caused a sudden decrease in the number of blackbirds in Vienna in 2001. The results are published in the current issue of the journal "Emerging Infectious Diseases."

Related Articles


The effects were dramatic: throughout Vienna it was impossible not to notice that the blackbirds were disappearing. Their melodious song no longer rang around the courtyards of the inner city nor woke tired partygoers in the outlying districts. The birds were simply no longer there. Thankfully, they gradually reappeared and a few years later their population had returned to its original levels. But the sudden crash in numbers was alarming and scientists rushed to find the cause.

It soon became apparent that the birds had died as a result of a new kind of viral infection. The culprit turned out to be the Usutu virus, which had previously been identified only in Africa and had only seldom been associated with mortality in animals or birds. It was widely assumed that the virus had crossed from Africa to central Europe with the help of migratory birds -- the Barn swallow was generally fingered as the most likely transmitter -- and that such sudden outbreaks would appear more frequently as the result of climate change. But these conclusions have been called into question by the latest findings from a team at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna).

Although not widely reported at the time, a large number of birds, especially blackbirds, died in Tuscany, Italy in 1996, five years before the outbreak of Usutu virus in Vienna's blackbirds. The causative agent was not identified but Giacomo Rossi of the University of Camerino had stored tissue samples from the dead birds. Herbert Weissenböck, Norbert Nowotny and colleagues in the Institute of Pathology and the Institute of Virology at the Vetmeduni Vienna recently became aware of the samples' existence and were naturally keen to investigate them. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the Italian samples contained exactly the same strain of Usutu virus that was responsible for the Viennese cases. As in Vienna, the birds were almost wiped out by the virus but resistance soon developed and the population returned to normal levels.

As Weissenböck says, "We still do not fully understand how the virus reached Austria but we have at least uncovered one piece in the jigsaw. Rather than coming directly from Africa to Vienna, the Usutu virus seems to have been present in Italy for some time." The powerful techniques of forensic pathology may be helpful in unravelling the origins of other emerging diseases: for example, we still do not know how the bluetongue virus reached northern Germany or the West Nile virus arrived in central Europe."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Herbert Weissenböck, Tamás Bakonyi, Giacomo Rossi, Paolo Mani, Norbert Nowotny. Usutu Virus, Italy, 1996. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2013; 19 (2): 274 DOI: 10.3201/eid1902.121191

Cite This Page:

Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Forensic pathology: Tracing the origin of the Usutu virus in blackbirds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130208105722.htm>.
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. (2013, February 8). Forensic pathology: Tracing the origin of the Usutu virus in blackbirds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130208105722.htm
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Forensic pathology: Tracing the origin of the Usutu virus in blackbirds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130208105722.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) — The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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