Nav: Home

The fauna in the Antarctica is threatened by pathogens humans spread in polar latitudes

December 10, 2018

The new study, which detected bacteria from humans in the genus Salmonella and Campylobacter in Antarctic and Subantarctic marine birds, reveals the fragility of polar ecosystems and warns about the risk of massive deaths and extinctions of local fauna populations due pathogens.

Reverse zoonosis: when the human species infects other living beings

Explorers, whalers, scientists -and lately, tourists-, are examples of human collectives that moved to the furthest regions of the planet. Some studies have claimed for years that there had been cases of reverse zoonosis, that is, infections humans give to other living beings. Despite some previous signs, scientific studies on zoonotic agents in the Antarctic and Subantarctic areas have been fragmented. Therefore, evidence is spread and not completely convincing in this field.

The new study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, studies the potential transmission of bacteria from humans to marine bird populations in four areas of the Antarctic and Subantarctic ecosystems. "Chronology and potential pathways for reverse zoonosis in these ecosystems are complex and difficult to study, but it seems they can be clearly related to the proximity of the fauna to inhabited areas and the presence of research stations", says Professor Jacob González-Solís, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the UB and IRBio.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in polar ecosystems

The study confirms the first evidence of reverse zoonosis related to the presence of human-origin bacteria Salmonella and Campylobacter in polar fauna. One of the warning signs was, in particular, the identification of Campylobacter strains, which are resistant to ciprofloxacin and enrofloxacin (common antibiotics in medicine and veterinary).

"Finding common Campylobacter genotypes in human species or livestock was the definite hint to prove that humans can be introducing pathogens in these regions", says Marta Cerdà-Cuéllar, researcher at the IRTA-CReSA. "These Salmonella and Campylobacter strains, which are a common cause for infections in humans and livestock, do not usually cause death outbreaks in wild animals. However, the emerging or invasive pathogens that arrive to highly sensitive populations -such as the Antarctic and Subantarctic fauna- could have severe consequences and cause the local collapse and extinction of some populations".

Northen and Southern Hemisphere: migrating route for marine birds and pathogens

The study shows the risk of reverse zoonosis is higher in areas that are closer to inhabited areas, such as the Flakland Islands, and probably the Tristan da Cunha archipelago. In this situation, the biological connectivity between Antarctic and Subantarctic communities through marine birds is a factor that would speed up the circulation of zoonotic agents among the ecosystems from different latitudes.

"This could be the case, for instance, of the Subantarctic parasite Stercorarius antarcticus: a scavenger marine bird could get the pathogen and spread it from Subantarctic latitudes to the Antarctica", says González-Solís.

Polar areas: not all the biodiversity is protected

The Antarctic Treaty protocol on Environmental Protection sets a series of principles that can be applied to human activity in Antarctica to reduce the human footprint in the white continent. However, some Subantarctic areas -which are also the habitat of birds such as the brown skua or the giant petrel- are not protected by the protecting regulation and could become the entrance for pathogen agents in polar ecosystems.

"Our results show it is easier for humans to introduce pathogen agents in the pristine areas in the Antarctica. As a result, pathogens entering the furthest ecosystems in the Southern Hemisphere could be a serious threat for the future of wildlife. Therefore, it is essential to adopt biosecurity measures to limit the human impacts in the Antarctica", notes Jacob González-Solís.
-end-


University of Barcelona

Related Bacteria Articles:

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.
Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.
Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.
Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.
Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.
Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.
How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.
The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?
Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.
Bacteria uses viral weapon against other bacteria
Bacterial cells use both a virus -- traditionally thought to be an enemy -- and a prehistoric viral protein to kill other bacteria that competes with it for food according to an international team of researchers who believe this has potential implications for future infectious disease treatment.
More Bacteria News and Bacteria 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

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.