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Climate change spreading the deadly virus in marine mammals

The deadly virus that kills thousands of European ports in the northern Atlantic has begun to affect coils, otters and sea lions in the northern Pacific Ocean. This virus is called focine distemper virus (VAT), which affects the animals themselves and does not affect humans.

Common (Phoca vitulina) seal sleeping on the sand, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom Credit: Tony M / Shutterstock

Common (Phoca vitulina) seal sleeping on the sand, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom Credit: Tony M / Shutterstock

The animals are likely to damage the nervous and respiratory system of marine mammals, the researchers explain. It has now been speculated that the spread of the virus north is due to global warming. A study called "Emergence of viruses in marine mammals in the North Pacific may be linked to a decline in Arctic sea ice," was published in the Journal this week Scientific reports.

The team wrote, "Focal Damage Virus (VAT), which caused high mortality in Atlantic seals, was confirmed in sea otters in the North Pacific in 2004, questioning whether sea ice reduction could increase contact between the Arctic and the submarine -Artian marine mammals and cause transmission of the virus across the Arctic Ocean. "

Tracey Goldstein, associate director of the Institute for One Health at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, was one of the lead researchers in this study. In a statement, she stated, "How did the virus previously seen in the Atlantic Ocean end up in the Pacific?" The team reviewed data on 15 years of animals marked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as from several institutions studying them and their migration patterns.

The team found that global warming and the thawing of Arctic ice could be one of the main drivers of the spread of this infection among marine mammals. The virus, the team speculates, can now move to a new region and infect marine animals there. Goldstein said, "It was the perfect storm of 2002. It was the lowest ice year at the time, and at the same time, in August and September, there was a really big epidemic."

The team used data from blood and nose samples from seals, sea lions, and otters that naturally inhabited regions or seas between southeastern Alaska and Russia. From these samples, they identified viruses that infected animals and also detected strains of viruses that infect marine mammals. They wrote: "Samples were collected from 2,530 live and 165 dead ice-related seals (bearded, rings, ribbons and speckled coils), Steller sea lions, northern seals and northern sea otters in the North Pacific between 2001 and 2016. . Sampling locations ranged from southeastern Alaska to Russia along the Aleutian Islands, as well as to the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas. "

Steller Sea Lav. Credit image: Birdiegal / Shutterstock

Steller Sea Lav. Credit image: Birdiegal / Shutterstock

Their results revealed that sea ice losses in the Arctic regions are directly related to the outbreak and increase in the number of viral infections among marine mammals. Reducing sea ice in the North Atlantic near Russia has been linked to an increase in the number of these viral infections in both oceans, the researchers said. Goldstein said molten ice opens up waterways that allow infected animals to contact other types of animals that spread the infection.

First author Elizabeth VanWormer, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis during the study, and now an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, explained that this virus spreads to animals as they collect each year during the breeding and breeding season. There is currently no evidence that the fossil resistance virus can spread to humans on animals, but researchers explain that the virus is similar to the measles virus that affects humans and is highly virulent.

The team said, "Peaks of VAT exposure and infection after 2003 may reflect additional viral intakes among various marine mammals in the North Pacific that are associated with changes in the extent of Arctic sea ice."

This is one of the additions to the existing evidence that shows the impact of global warming on animal and human health, the researchers say. The warming also causes poisonous algae to bloom, the researchers say, and they eventually kill thousands of marine animals. These toxic algae flowers are affecting the west coast of the United States, marine zoologists and biologists say.

Researchers and other experts have warned that the impact of climate change can affect not only marine mammals but also ecosystems around the world. VanWormer said, "When we see these changes occur in animals, we cannot ignore them because the impacts on humans and the planet are not far off. It shows how interconnected these things are – human, animal and planet health. "

Journal reference:

VanWormer, E., Mazet, J. A. K., Hall, A., et al. Virus formation in marine mammals in the North Pacific may be associated with a decrease in Arctic sea ice. Sci Rep 9, 15569 (2019) doi: 10.1038 / s41598-019-51699-4,

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