Nav: Home

Warming oceans lead to more fur seal deaths from hookworm infection

November 06, 2018

Rising ocean temperatures are putting fur seal pups at greater risk of death from hookworm infections, according to new findings published in eLife.

The results shed new light on how warmer oceans can alter specific physiological processes in marine mammals, and suggest that infectious diseases could cause higher mortality rates if temperatures keep rising.

"Increasing ocean temperatures are associated with changes in the patterns of wind and ocean currents, which cause a decrease in the cycling of nutrients and, by extension, the abundance of life including fishes," says first author Mauricio Seguel, Postdoctoral Associate in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia, Athens, US.

"Reductions in marine life have also been linked with the decline of marine mammal populations, as they rely on fish as their main food supply. Fur seals and sea lions may be included here, because although their pups live on land, they depend on their mother's' milk for survival, which can only be produced if the mothers eat enough fish."

To investigate how marine mammals may be affected by changes in ocean conditions, Seguel and his team studied the health and survival of a colony of fur seals in South America between 2004-2008 and 2012-2017. "As hookworm infection is a major cause of death in this group of animals, whereby the parasite gets into the intestine of seal pups and sucks their blood, we wanted to see if environmental change affects the pups' ability to respond to this parasite," Seguel explains.

They found that, in years with colder ocean temperatures, such as 2007, fur seal pups receive more maternal care and consequently have a more effective immune system. This allows approximately 70% of them to eliminate the parasite from the intestine via a specific immune response that includes producing antibodies that kill it.

On the other hand, in years with warmer ocean conditions, such as 2017, their mothers have to spend more time in the ocean to find fish, which means spending less time with their pups. These pups grow more slowly, have lower levels of blood glucose and are unable to fight off hookworms, with approximately half of them dying from the infection.

"Our work reveals how changing ocean conditions are having an indirect effect on fur seal pups' mortality rates as a result of infection," Seguel concludes. "We hope these findings help lay the groundwork for investigating ways to limit the effect of parasitic diseases among fur seals and other marine mammals in the context of a changing climate."
-end-
Reference

The paper 'Immune mediated hookworm clearance and survival of a marine mammal decreases with warmer ocean temperatures' can be freely accessed online at https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.38432. Contents, including text, figures and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Media contact

Emily Packer, Senior Press Officer
eLife
e.packer@elifesciences.org
01223 855373

About eLife

eLife aims to help scientists accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours in science. We publish important research in all areas of the life and biomedical sciences, including Microbiology and Infectious Disease and Ecology, which is selected and evaluated by working scientists and made freely available online without delay. eLife also invests in innovation through open-source tool development to accelerate research communication and discovery. Our work is guided by the communities we serve. eLife is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, the Wellcome Trust and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.

To read the latest Microbiology and Infectious Disease and Ecology research published in eLife, visit https://elifesciences.org/subjects/microbiology-infectious-disease and https://elifesciences.org/subjects/ecology.

eLife

Related Infection Articles:

Sensing infection, suppressing regeneration
UIC researchers describe an enzyme that blocks the ability of blood vessel cells to self-heal.
Boost to lung immunity following infection
The strength of the immune system in response to respiratory infections is constantly changing, depending on the history of previous, unrelated infections, according to new research from the Crick.
Is infection after surgery associated with increased long-term risk of infection, death?
Whether experiencing an infection within the first 30 days after surgery is associated with an increased risk of another infection and death within one year was the focus of this observational study that included about 660,000 veterans who underwent major surgery.
Revealed: How E. coli knows how to cause the worst possible infection
The discovery could one day let doctors prevent the infection by allowing E. coli to pass harmlessly through the body.
UK study shows most patients with suspected urinary tract infection and treated with antibiotics actually lack evidence of this infection
New research presented at this week's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam, Netherlands (April 13-16, 2019) shows that only one third of patients that enter the emergency department with suspected urinary tract infection (UTI) actually have evidence of this infection, yet almost all are treated with antibiotics, unnecessarily driving the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
Bacteria in urine doesn't always indicate infection
Doctors should think carefully before testing patients for a urinary tract infection (UTI) to avoid over-diagnosis and unnecessary antibiotic treatment, according to updated asymptomatic bacteriuria (ASB) guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Subsidies for infection control to healthcare institutions help reduce infection levels
Researchers compared three types of infection control subsidies and found that under a limited budget, a dollar-for-dollar matching subsidy, in which policymakers match hospital spending for infection control measures, was the most effective at reducing the number of hospital-acquired infections.
Dengue virus infection may cause severe outcomes following Zika virus infection during pregnancy
This study is the first to report a possible mechanism for the enhancement of Zika virus progression during pregnancy in an animal model.
How common is Hepatitis C infection in each US state?
Hepatitis C virus infection is a major cause of illness and death in the United States and injection drug use is likely fueling many new cases.
The medicine of the future against infection and inflammation?
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, have in collaboration with colleagues in Copenhagen and Singapore, mapped how the body's own peptides act to reduce infection and inflammation by deactivating the toxic substances formed in the process.
More Infection News and Infection Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.