Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Zebra virus kills polar bear in German zoo


Zoos should be on the alert for viruses that can jump from one animal to another, threatening endangered species, say researchers.
The cause of an infection that killed a polar bear at a German zoo has been traced back to the zebra house, scientists report in Current Biology.
Viruses spreading to unexpected hosts may threaten the conservation mission of zoos, they warn.
Most pathogens are adapted to one host but some can leap the species barrier.
Flu, for example, is thought to have moved between pigs, birds and humans during its evolution.
Mystery illness
An international team of researchers carried out some DNA detective work after two polar bears at the Zoological Gardens in Wuppertal, Germany, were struck down by a mystery illness.
Two bears contracted the brain infection encephalitis, suffering seizures and frothing at the mouth.
One - a 20-year-old female, Jerka, died after little more than a week.

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