A combination of bacteria in tsetse flies has the potential to significantly reduce or even eliminate the disease of sleeping sickness, an OSU modeling study suggests.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – A tag team of two bacteria, one of them genetically modified, has a good chance to reduce or even eliminate the deadly disease African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, researchers at Oregon State University conclude in a recent mathematical modeling study.
African trypanosomiasis, caused by a parasite carried by the tsetse fly, infects 30,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa each year and is almost always fatal without treatment. In a 2008 epidemic, 48,000 people died.
In this research, scientists evaluated the potential for success of a new approach to combat the disease – creating a genetically modified version of the Sodalis bacteria commonly found in the gut of the flies that carry the disease, and using different bacteria called Wolbachia to drive the GMO version of Sodalis into fly populations.
When that’s done, the GMO version of Sodalis would kill the disease-causing trypanosome parasite. According to the analysis published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers say this should work – and could offer a model system for other tropical, insect-carried diseases of even greater importance, including dengue fever and malaria.
“There are a few ‘ifs’ necessary for this to succeed, but none of them look like an obstacle that could not be overcome,” said Jan Medlock, an assistant professor in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, and lead author on the new report.
“If everything goes right, and we are optimistic that it will, this could be enormously important,” Medlock said. “There’s a potential here to completely solve this disease that has killed many thousands of people, and open new approaches to dealing with even more serious diseases such as malaria.”
Some of the “ifs” include: the transgenic Sodalis has to be reasonably effective at blocking the parasite, at or above a level of about 85 percent; the Wolbachia bacteria, which has some effect on the health of flies affected with it, must not kill too many of them; and the target species of fly has to be a majority of the tsetse flies in the areas being treated.
The research shows that dealing with all of those obstacles should be possible. If so, this might spell the end of a tropical disease that has plagued humans for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. African trypanosomiasis causes serious mental and physical deterioration – including the altered sleep patterns that give the disease its name – and is fatal without treatment. It’s still difficult to treat, and neurologic damage is permanent.
Past efforts to control the disease, including insect traps, insecticide spraying, and use of sterile insects have been of some value, but only in limited areas and the effects were not permanent.
The strength of the new approach, researchers say, is that once the process begins it should spread and be self-sustaining - it should not be necessary to repeatedly take action in the huge geographic areas of Africa. Due to some genetic manipulation, the flies carrying the Wolbachia bacteria should naturally increase their populations and have an inherent survival advantage over conventional tsetse flies.
As the flies carrying transgenic bacteria continue to dominate and their populations spread, trypanosomiasis should fairly rapidly disappear. Whether the mechanism of control could wane in effectiveness over time is an issue that requires further study, scientists said.
Work has begun on the GMO version of Sodalis that has the capability to resist trypanosomes . It’s not yet finalized, Medlock said, but it should be possible, and when complete, the bacteria will be very specific to tsetse flies.
Medlock, an expert in modeling the transmission of various diseases – including human influenza – says the analysis is clear that this approach has significant promise of success. Because of the relatively low infectiousness of the parasite and the ability of Wolbachia to drive the resistance genes, no part of the system has to be 100 percent perfect in order to ultimately achieve near eradication of this disease, he said.
Accomplishing a similar goal with diseases such as malaria may be more difficult, he said, because that disease historically has shown a remarkable ability to mutate and overcome many of the approaches used to attack it. However, at least some near-term gains may be possible, he said.
Collaborators on this study included scientists from the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and the Yale School of Public Health. It was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Miriam Weston Trust.College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact: David Stauth Source:
Jan Medlock, 541-737-6874Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
The fifth International Film Festival, showcasing a diverse array of movies from international cultures, will be held Oct. 14-20 in Corvallis.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The fifth International Film Festival, showcasing a diverse array of movies from international cultures, will be held Oct. 14-20 in Corvallis.
The International Film Festival is organized by Oregon State University’s School of Language, Culture, and Society. Admission is free and open to the public. All screenings are held at the Darkside Cinema, 215 S.W. 4th St. in Corvallis.
OSU faculty member Sebastian Heiduschke strongly encourages patrons to arrive early to get tickets. Reservations are not available. Tickets are available 15 minutes before show times.
The full program can be viewed at: http://oregonstate.edu/cla/slcs/sites/default/files/iffprogram3.pdf
Here is the schedule of film screenings:
Monday, Oct. 14
- 5 p.m.: “Blancanieves,” Spain, 2012. Set in southern Spain in 1920s, “Blancanieves” is a Spanish twist on the story of Snow White. It was also Spain’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
- 7 p.m.: “Rentaneko” Japan, 2012. Translated to “Rent-A-Cat,” this drama tells the story of a young lonely woman who only has her cats left, until a man from her past comes back.
Tuesday, Oct. 15
- 5 p.m.: “Beijing Flickers,” China, 2012. A young man experiences moments of euphoria amid despair as he roams Beijing with other misfit dreamers in this darkly funny portrait of disaffected youth.
- 7 p.m.: “Parada,” or “The Parade,” Serbia, 2012. Inspired by true events, this comedy features a Serbian crime boss who recruits his war buddies to provide protection for a gay pride march.
Wednesday, Oct. 16
- 5 p.m.: “Le Repenti” or (The Repentant), Algeria/France, 2012. As Islamist groups continue to spread terror, Rashid, a young Jihadist, leaves the mountains to return to his village.
- 7 p.m.: “Children of the Wall,” United States, 2012. This documentary chronicles the cultural changes that have happened since the Berlin Wall fell 21 years ago. Director Eric Swartz and producer Sarah Bolton will be in attendance.
Thursday, Oct. 17
- 5 p.m.: “Aquí y Allá,” or “Here and There,” Mexico, 2012. Pedro returns home to a small mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico, after years of working in the U.S., and struggles to follow his dreams.
- 7 p.m.: “Oh Boy!” Germany, 2012. This deadpan comedy follows 20-something Niko as he meanders through modern Berlin with no money, no prospects and no girlfriend.
Friday, Oct. 18
- 4:30 p.m.: “Shyamal Uncle Turns off the Lights,” India, 2012. An 80-year-old retiree is determined to get the streetlights turned off after sunrise, but he must battle against bureaucracy.
- 6 p.m.: “Cairo 678” Egypt, 2011. Three Cairo women from different backgrounds warily unite to combat the sexual harassment that has affected each of their lives.
- 8 p.m.: “Life Kills Me,” Chile, 2007. This comedy is about an unlikely friendship between a grieving cinematographer and a morbidly obsessed drifter.
Saturday, Oct. 19
- Noon: “Student,” Kazakhstan, 2012. This contemporary adaptation of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” follows a solitary philosophy student against the backdrop of modern Kazakhstan.
- 2 p.m.: “Sudoeste” or (Southwest), Brazil, 2012. A young woman gives birth on her deathbed to a child who lives her lifetime in a single day, in this hauntingly dreamlike tale of incommensurable life.
- 4:15 p.m.: “Darbare 111 Dokhtar,” or “About 111 Girls,” Iraq, 2012. An Iranian state official, his driver and a young guide race to stop 111 young Kurdish women from committing suicide in protest.
- 6:15 p.m.: “Ludwig II,” Germany/Austria, 2012. This epic drama tells the life story of Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, one of the most fascinating monarchs of modern times.
Sunday, Oct. 20
- 2 p.m.: “Wickie auf grosser Fahrt,” or “Vicky and the Treasure of the Gods,” Germany, 2011. A Viking tot is abducted in this comedy of misadventure and magic.
- 4 p.m.: “El Fantastico mundo de Juan Orol,” Mexico, 2012. The true story of Mexico’s half-forgotten B-movie master, “involuntary surrealist,” Juan Orol.
- 6 p.m.: “Paziraie Sadeh,” or “Modest Reception,” Iran, 2012. Two siblings from Tehran travel the mountainous northern countryside, pushing money on locals—a hilarious exercise with themes of power and corruption.
Sebastian Heiduschke, 541-737-3957Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will design miniature wireless sensors to attach to bumblebees that will provide real-time data on their intriguing behavior.
Many aspects of bumblebees' daily conduct are unknown because of their small size, rapid flight speeds, and hidden underground nests. OSU plans to build sensors that will reveal how these native pollinators search for pollen, nectar and nesting sites – information that will help researchers better understand how these insects assist in the production of crops that depend on pollination to produce fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, tomatoes and dozens of other staples of the Pacific Northwest agricultural economy.
Given recent losses of European honeybees to diseases, mites and colony collapse disorder, bumblebees are becoming increasingly important as agricultural pollinators, said Sujaya Rao, an entomologist in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.
"Lack of pollination is a risk to human food production,” said Rao, an expert on native bees. “With our sensors, we are searching for answers to basic questions, such as: Do all members of one colony go to pollinate the same field together? Do bumblebees communicate in the colony where food is located? Are bumblebees loyal as a group?"
"The more we can learn about bumblebees' customs of foraging, pollination and communication,” she added, “the better we can promote horticultural habitats that are friendly to bees in agricultural settings."
Landscaping tactics, such as planting flowers and hedgerows near crops, are believed to promote the presence and population of bumblebees, as well as increase yields.
This multidisciplinary design project will unite Rao with researchers in OSU's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The three-year collaboration begins Oct. 1 and will be supported by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
OSU engineers will test small, lightweight electronic sensors that avoid affecting the bees' natural flight movements. At the same time, researchers will test how to best mount the sensors on the pollinators – likely on the thorax or abdomen.
Each sensor will consist of integrated circuits that broadcast wireless signals about the bee's location and movement. The sensors will be powered by wireless energy transfer instead of batteries, further reducing weight and size.
"New technologies allow us to build sensors with extremely small dimensions," said Arun Natarajan, principal investigator in OSU's High-Speed Integrated Circuits Lab and an assistant professor in EECS. "The concept of placing wireless sensors on insects is a relatively unexplored area, and we're hopeful that our research can have vast applications in the future.”
Once designed and built, OSU researchers first plan to use the sensors to study the six bumblebee species of the Willamette Valley, which vary in size, flight patterns and seasonal activity. These native bees also differ from bumblebees found in eastern Oregon, the East Coast and Europe.
Researchers also hope their sensor designs could be used for tracking other small organisms, such as invasive pests.
Patrick Chiang, an OSU engineering professor and an expert in low-power circuits, will assist in designing the sensors.
"This collaboration is truly unique - engineers and entomologists talk different languages and rarely cross paths," said Rao. "To be working with engineers for an agricultural research project is part of what makes this effort so exciting and distinct."Generic OSU Media Contact: Daniel Robison Source:
Sujaya Rao, 541-737-9038;
Arun Natarajan, 541-737-0606Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
OSU entomologist Sujaya Rao will attach small sensors to bumblebees to study the pollinators' habits in agricultural areas. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)
Sensor data will eventually inform the design of horticultural landscapes that attract bumblebees to crops that depend on pollination to produce fruits and vegetables. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)
OSU researchers will first use the sensors to study the six species of bumblebees native to the Willamette Valley. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)
A study by Oregon State University researchers finds that comprehensive, community-based mental health programs in California are helping people with serious mental illness.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new analysis by Oregon State University researchers of California’s mental health system finds that comprehensive, community-based mental health programs are helping people with serious mental illness transition to independent living.
Published in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health, this study has important implications for the way that states finance and deliver mental health programs, and speaks to the effectiveness of well-funded, comprehensive community programs.
In November of 2004, California voters passed the Mental Health Services Act, which allocated more than $3 billion for comprehensive community mental health programs, known as Full Service Partnerships (FSP). While community-based, these programs are different from usual mental health services programs in most states because they provides a more intensive level of care and a broader range of mental health services and supports, such as medication management, crisis intervention, case management and peer support.
It also provides services such as food, housing, respite care and treatment for co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse.
“We found that these programs promoted independent living in the community among people who had serious mental illness but had not been served or underserved previously,” said Jangho Yoon, an assistant professor of health policy and health economist in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and lead author of the study. “Overall, it reduced their chance of living on the street or being incarcerated in jails and prisons.”
The researchers looked at data from 43 of California’s 53 counties, resulting in a sample of 9,208 adults over the course of four years. They found that participants who stayed enrolled in the program continuously, without interruption, were 13.5 percent more likely to successfully transition to independent living.
However, they found that non-white patients were less likely to live independently, and more likely to end up in jail or homeless.
“Although FSPs represent the most well-funded comprehensive community-based programs in the country, they are still community programs and therefore program participation is voluntary,” Yoon said. “My guess is that minorities may not benefit fully from these programs in their communities possibly due to greater stigma, and less family/social supports. But it needs further investigation.”
Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders were also less likely to benefit from the community programs, because of the nature and severity of their mental health issues.
Yoon is an expert on health management policy, specifically policy around the area of mental health. He said other states haven’t followed California’s lead, in part because of the cost of such extensive programming. Yoon said some of the funding made possible by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which includes $460 million for community mental health services for states to use, may help other states to create similar programs.
“Nobody would disagree that the public mental health system has historically been under-funded in the U.S.,” he said. “The message for other states is clear: investment in well-funded, recovery-oriented, comprehensive community mental health programs clearly improves lives of people with serious mental illness, and may also save money from reduced dependency and incarcerations in this population.”
Tim Bruckner of the University of California, Irvine, and Timothy Brown of the University of California, Berkeley, contributed to this study, which was jointly funded by the California Department of Mental Health and the California Health Care Foundation.College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact: Angela Yeager Source:
Jangho Yoon, 541-737-3839
Oregon State University expects to serve some 28,000 students this fall term - an enrollment fueled by a 24 percent growth in the distance learning Ecampus program.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Classes began this week at Oregon State University, and campus officials say they expect about 24,600 students on the main campus in Corvallis this fall.
Another 3,420 students are expected to enroll at OSU through Ecampus, the university’s distance learning program, which has fueled much of the institution’s enrollment growth over the past two to three years. The number of Ecampus students is up an estimated 24 percent over last year.
Overall, Oregon State expects to serve more than 28,000 students this fall term – an all-time record. An additional 900 students are expected to enroll at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend. Final enrollment numbers will be available from the Oregon University System at the end of the fourth week of fall term.
Although OSU’s overall growth is significant, a smaller increase is projected on the Corvallis campus – part of an enrollment management strategy, according to university officials.
“Our growth this year is right in line with the university’s plan to strategically manage enrollment,” said Kate Peterson, OSU’s assistant provost for enrollment management. “We want to continue to be accessible to Oregonians, increase our international enrollment and become even more diverse, yet moderate the growth on our Corvallis campus.”
Lisa Templeton, executive director of Ecampus, said the increase in distance learning students continues a trend that has seen rapid growth for several years. OSU has been cited as one of the nation’s top 25 online universities for four consecutive years.
“Most of our distance students are adult learners who are working, home with the family or both,” Templeton said. “We also have many students in the military, and military spouses, as well as students who prefer online learning. Our students are usually part-time, and a number of students at the Corvallis campus will take an online course or two that fits into their schedule.”
Among the most popular online programs are computer science and degree programs in natural resources and fisheries and wildlife.
The popularity of OSU with military veterans is not just through Ecampus, OSU officials say. Another area of growth this fall is with military veterans, their families and students on active duty, according to Peterson. “Realistically, we could reach 1,100 students this fall who are receiving military benefits.”
Gus Bedwell, OSU’s Veterans Resources coordinator, said OSU thus far has 974 student veterans drawing Veterans Administration (VA) Education benefits, and an additional 125 students receiving military tuition assistance – some of which also are veterans.
“The university is working hard to welcome these veterans and their families to campus, helping them with VA benefits and providing cultural training not only for the students, but for OSU faculty, staff and the local community,” Bedwell said. “The opening of a Veterans Lounge in 2010 gives our student veterans a safe and comfortable place to congregate and study.”
International student enrollment continues to grow at Oregon State since it began collaborating with INTO University Partnerships in 2008 to recruit students overseas. The INTO OSU program is anticipating a 16 percent increase in enrollment this year to approximately 1,400 students. Combined with other international students, OSU expects an international enrollment of more than 10 percent of its student body on the Corvallis campus, or some 2,800 students.
A quick snapshot of new students this fall at OSU reveals that the incoming class comes from 35 Oregon counties, all 50 states and U.S. territories, and 58 foreign countries. Among the other highlights:
- Twelve incoming Oregon State University students had perfect SAT scores in math, and 10 had perfect SAT verbal scores;
- Nine incoming students were National Merit finalists;
- 52 new students are OSU Presidential Scholars, the university’s most prestigious scholarship. Begun in 2011, scholarships are awarded to exceptional Oregon residents with grade point averages of 3.85 or higher and/or SAT scores of 1,900-plus. Awards are for $8,000 a year.
- A total of 149 valedictorians from Oregon high schools are enrolling at OSU this fall, increasing the number of high-achieving freshmen – those with high school grade point averages of 3.75 or higher – to an estimated 1,130 students.
OSU is working to welcome and accommodate the new students – and introduce them to initiatives such as the First Year Experience program that help new students succeed, officials say.
The university is building a new residence hall on the southeast end of campus that will help accommodate growth. Construction on the five-story, $28 million building adjacent to Wilson Hall began this summer. When it opens in fall of 2014, it will house an additional 324 students.
The university’s enrollment in fall term of 2012 was 26,393 students, including Ecampus (but not including OSU-Cascades).Generic OSU Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Kate Peterson, 541-737-0759, email@example.com
The reappearance of wolves in Oregon and the impact they have on people from ranchers to conservationists to attorneys is the subject of a new book by the OSU Press.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The reappearance of wolves in Oregon and the impact this apex predator has on people from ranchers to conservationists to attorneys is the subject of a new book by the Oregon State University Press.
“Collared: Politics and Personalities in Oregon’s Wolf Country” was written by Aimee Lyn Eaton, a former science communicator at OSU who also has worked as a free-lance writer for the New York Times, National Geographic and other publications.
Eaton describes her experience in seeing wolves first-hand, and meeting many Oregonians most affected by their return. She takes the reader to the State Capitol in Salem, to town hall meetings in rural northeastern Oregon and beyond.
Tom Booth of the OSU Press said the book encourages “a deeper, multi-faceted understanding of the controversial and storied presence of wolves in Oregon.”
Four events are scheduled for the author in Portland and Corvallis next week:
- Portland: A reading and signing event on Monday, Oct. 7, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Powell’s, 3723 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.;
- Portland: A book signing session on Tuesday, Oct. 8, during the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association conference at the Airport Holiday Inn. More information on the conference is available at: www.pnba.org/show.htm
- Corvallis: A reading and signing event on Tuesday, Oct. 8, beginning at 7 p.m. at Grass Roots Books & Music, 227 S.W. 2nd St.;
- Corvallis: A reading and signing event on Wednesday, Oct. 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the third floor of OSU’s Valley Library (bring you own lunch).
“Collared” is available in bookstores, online at http://osupress.oregonstate.edu, or can be ordered by calling 1-800-621-2736.
Note to Journalists: Review copies of “Collared” are available by contacting Micki Reaman of The OSU Press at 541-737-4620.
About the OSU Press: The OSU Press plays a vital role in the cultural and literary life of the Pacific Northwest by providing readers with a better understanding of the region. The press specializes in scholarly and general interest books about the history, culture, literature, environment, and natural resources of the state and region.Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Micki Reaman, 541-737-4620
The biennial award is given to a major American author who has created a body of critically acclaimed work and who has — in the tradition of creative writing at OSU — mentored young writers.
Wolff is best known for his work in two genres: the short story and the memoir. His first short story collection, “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs,” was published in 1981. Wolff chronicled his early life in two memoirs, “In Pharaoh’s Army” (1994) and “This Boy’s Life” (1989), which was turned into a 1993 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.
In addition to four short story collections, Wolff is the author of the 2003 novel, “Old School.”
In 1989, Wolff was chosen as recipient of the Rea Award for Excellence in the Short Story. He also has been awarded the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Fairfax Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, the PEN/Malamud Award for Achievement in the Short Story, and the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Wolff is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the Humanities at Stanford.
Wolff will be presented with the Stone Award at the Portland Art Museum on May 21, and will visit the Oregon State campus in Corvallis on May 22 to give a public reading. In the spring, OSU Master of Fine Arts program students will lead “Everybody Reads” programs featuring a selected book by Wolff, with events at libraries, book clubs and independent bookstores.
The $20,000 Stone Award — one of the largest prizes of its kind given by an American university — was established in 2011 by a gift from Patrick Stone, a 1974 graduate from OSU’s College of Liberal Arts, and his wife, Vicki. In 2012, the inaugural recipient was Joyce Carol Oates. The Stones established the prize to spotlight Oregon State’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, ranked among the top 25 MFA programs in 2012 by Poets & Writers magazine.College of Liberal Arts Media Contact: Angela Yeager Source:
Karen Holmberg, 541-737-1661Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Writer Nick Flynn will read from his work on Friday, Oct. 11, at Oregon State University’s Valley Library rotunda. The free public event begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a question and answer session and book signing.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Writer Nick Flynn will read from his work on Friday, Oct. 11, at Oregon State University’s Valley Library rotunda. The free public event begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a question and answer session and book signing.
Flynn is the author of three memoirs including “The Reenactments” (2013), “The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir of Bewilderment” (2010) and “Another … Night in Suck City” (2004). Flynn is also the author of three books of poetry.
Of Flynn’s most recent memoir, “The Reenactments,” Kirkus Reviews wrote: “Flynn’s determination to better understand his life through the act of writing and remembering has yielded a truly insightful, original work.” Clea Simon of The Boston Globe said Flynn’s writing is “always specific and honest” and “dryly funny.”
His award-winning memoir “Another … Night in Suck City” was turned into the movie “Being Flynn,” starring Robert De Niro and Paul Dano. That book recounted his unusual relationship with his alcoholic father and the suicide of his mother.
Flynn, 52, is a professor of poetry and married to actress Lili Taylor.
Flynn has been awarded fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation, The Library of Congress, The Amy Lowell Trust, and The Fine Arts Work Center.
The Visiting Writers Series brings nationally-known writers to Oregon State University. The program is made possible by support from The Valley Library, OSU Press, the OSU School of Writing, Literature, and Film, the College of Liberal Arts, Kathy Brisker and Tim Steele, and Grass Roots Books and Music.College of Liberal Arts Media Contact: Angela Yeager Source:
Rachel Ratner, 516-652-5817Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Paul Bogard, author of “The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light,” will read from his book on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Paul Bogard, author of “The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light,” will read from his book on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library. The reading begins at 7 p.m. at the library, located at 645 N.W. Monroe Ave., Corvallis.
The event is sponsored by Oregon State University’s Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word and Friends of the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
In his book, Bogard examines the night and how people experience it, traveling to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Walden Pond, and the Canary Islands to explore degrees of darkness. After talking to astronomers, lighting professionals, nurses, and other night-time workers, Bogard writes about the cultural, social and health implications of a night that’s getting brighter every minute, thanks in part to parking lot lights and streetlights.
Publishers Weekly wrote: “Even readers unable to tell Orion from the Big Dipper will find a new appreciation for the night sky after spending some time with this terrific book.”
A native of Minnesota, Bogard teaches creative nonfiction at James Madison University. He is also editor of the anthology “Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark.”College of Liberal Arts Source:
Carly Lettero, 541-737-6198
The first rock that scientists analyzed on Mars using the Curiosity rover turned out to be a pyramid-shaped “mugearite” that is unlike any other Martian igneous rock ever found.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The first rock that scientists analyzed on Mars with a pair of chemical instruments aboard the Curiosity rover turned out to be a doozy – a pyramid-shaped volcanic rock called a “mugearite” that is unlike any other Martian igneous rock ever found.
Dubbed “Jake_M” – after Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Jake Matijevic – the rock is similar to mugearites found on Earth, typically on ocean islands and in continental rifts. The process through which these rocks form often suggests the presence of water deep below the surface, according to Martin Fisk, an Oregon State University marine geologist and member of the Mars Science Laboratory team.
Results of the analysis were published this week in the journal Science, along with two other papers on Mars’ soils.
“On Earth, we have a pretty good idea how mugearites and rocks like them are formed,” said Fisk, who is a co-author on all three Science articles. “It starts with magma deep within the Earth that crystallizes in the presence of 1-2 percent water. The crystals settle out of the magma and what doesn’t crystallize is the mugearite magma, which can eventually make its way to the surface as a volcanic eruption.”
Fisk, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, said the most common volcanic rocks typically crystallize in a specific order as they cool, beginning with olivine and feldspar. In the presence of water, however, feldspar crystallizes later and the magma will have a composition such as mugearite.
Although this potential evidence for water deep beneath the surface of Mars isn’t ironclad, the scientists say, it adds to the growing body of studies pointing to the presence of water on the Red Planet – an ingredient necessary for life.
“The rock is significant in another way,” Fisk pointed out. “It implies that the interior of Mars is composed of areas with different compositions; it is not well mixed. Perhaps Mars never got homogenized the way Earth has through its plate tectonics and convection processes.”
In another study, scientists examined the soil diversity and hydration of Gale Crater using a ChemCam laser instrument. They found hydrogen in all of the sites sampled, suggesting water, as well as the likely presence of sulphates. Mars was thought to have three stages – an early phase with lots of water, an evaporation phase when the water disappeared leaving behind sulphate salts, and a third phase when the surface soils dried out and oxidized – creating the planet’s red hue.
“ChemCam found hydrogen in almost every place we found iron,” Fisk said.
The third study compared grains of rock on the surface with a darker soil beneath at a site called the Rocknest Sand Shadow. Some of the sand grains are almost perfectly round and may have come from space, Fisk said.
The studies were funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, and supported by several international agencies.College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Martin Fisk, 541-737-5208; firstname.lastname@example.orgMultimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Bob Moore, founding CEO of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, will give a free, public talk and a cooking demonstration at Oregon State University on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Bob Moore, founding CEO of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, will give a free, public talk and a cooking demonstration at Oregon State University on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
At noon, Moore will give a talk on “Bob Moore and the Bob's Red Mill Story – The Importance of Whole Grains,” in the Construction and Engineering Hall of LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th St., Corvallis. At 1 p.m., Moore and Lori Sobelson, instructor and director of corporate outreach for Bob's Red Mill, will conduct a food and cooking demonstration titled “Cooking with Ancient Grains."
The event is sponsored by OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and its Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Public Health.
Recipes and food samples will be given to those who attend. Questions may be sent to email@example.comCollege of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact: Angela Yeager Source:
Emily Ho, 541-737-9559
Dams have criticized for harming water quality and fish passage, but a new study suggests they provide “ecological and engineering resilience” to climate change in the Columbia River basin.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Dams have been vilified for detrimental effects to water quality and fish passage, but a new study suggests that these structures provide “ecological and engineering resilience” to climate change in the Columbia River basin.
The study, which was published in the Canadian journal Atmosphere-Ocean, looked at the effects of climate warming on stream flow in the headwaters and downstream reaches of seven sub-basins of the Columbia River from 1950 to 2010. The researchers found that the peak of the annual snowmelt runoff has shifted to a few days earlier, but the downstream impacts were negligible because reservoir management counteracts these effects.
“The dams are doing what they are supposed to do, which is to use engineering – and management – to buffer us from climate variability and climate warming,” said Julia Jones, an Oregon State University hydrologist and co-author on the study. “The climate change signals that people have expected in stream flow haven’t been evident in the Columbia River basin because of the dams and reservoir management. That may not be the case elsewhere, however.”
The study is one of several published in a special edition of the journal, which examines the iconic river as the United States and Canada begin a formal 10-year review of the Columbia River water management treaty in 2014. The treaty expires in 2024.
Jones said the net effect of reservoir management is to reduce amplitude of water flow variance by containing water upstream during peak flows for flood control, or augmenting low flows in late summer. While authorized primarily for flood control, reservoir management also considers water release strategies for fish migration, hydropower, ship navigation and recreation.
These social forces, as well as climate change impacts, have the potential to create more variability in river flow, but the decades-long hydrograph chart of the Columbia River is stable because of the dams, said Jones, who is on the faculty of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU.
“The climate change signal on stream flow that we would expect to see is apparent in the headwaters,” she said, “but not downstream. Historically, flow management in the Columbia River basin has focused on the timing of water flows and so far, despite debates about reservoir management, water scarcity has not been as prominent an issue in the Columbia basin as it has elsewhere, such as the Klamath basin.”
The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation’s support to the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, looked at seven sub-basins of the Columbia River, as well as the main stem of the Columbia. These river systems included the Bruneau, Entiat, Snake, Pend Oreille, Priest, Salmon and Willamette rivers.
“One of the advantages of having a long-term research programs like H.J. Andrews is that you have detailed measurements over long periods of time that can tell you a lot about how climate is changing,” Jones pointed out. “In the case of the Columbia River – especially downstream – the impacts haven’t been as daunting as some people initially feared because of the engineering component.
“Will that be the case in the future?” she added. “It’s possible, but hard to predict. Whether we see a strong climate change signal producing water shortages in the Columbia River will depend on the interplay of social forces and climate change over the next several decades.”
Also co-author on the study is Kendra Hatcher, a graduate student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, who studied under Jones.College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Julia Jones, 541-737-1224; firstname.lastname@example.org
Maret Traber, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and principal investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute, has received an international honor for her work on vitamin E.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Maret Traber, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and principal investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute, has received an international honor for her work on vitamin E.
Traber received the DSM Nutritional Science Award 2013 on fundamental or applied research in human nutrition, which included an honorarium of 50,000 Euros. It recognizes her lifetime commitment to research on vitamin E and many new insights into its role in human nutrition and optimum health.
Traber is director of the Oxidative and Nitrative Stress Laboratory at OSU and is the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Micronutrient Research. She has published nearly 250 professional publications on vitamin E, on such topics as its bioavailability, kinetics, metabolism, and effects of vitamin E deficiency – especially in people with particular health concerns, such as burn victims or diabetics.
She received the award in Granada, Spain at the IUNS 20th International Congress of Nutrition.Generic OSU Media Contact: Angela Yeager Source:
Maret Traber, 541-737-7977
The Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator has a new home in downtown Corvallis.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator has a new home in downtown Corvallis.
The Accelerator, created to spur the creation of new companies from Oregon State University-based research, will be located at 200 S.W. 4th St., less than a block from Corvallis City Hall. Mark Lieberman, co-director of the OSU Advantage Accelerator and chief startup officer, said his team will move into the building in October.
“The Accelerator facility will be a hub for creative and innovative thinking for technology start-ups,” he said. “We will offer essential networking events, as well as educational and leadership opportunities, including CEO roundtables, presentations and one-on-one meetings with successful entrepreneurs, investors, and venture capitalists.”
Lieberman, co-director John Turner, and program administrator Betty Nickerson, will have offices in the downtown facility. Turner said space for eight student interns, plus an entrepreneur-in-residence, will also be provided.
“We’re excited to be in the heart of downtown Corvallis. The Accelerator is focused on creating new companies and new jobs, and we see the city of Corvallis as an important partner in this goal," Turner said. "This gives us a place where we can all be together of course, and also gives us a public face so we can meet with researchers and companies from the community."
The OSU Advantage Accelerator is one component of the Oregon State University Advantage, an educational, research and commercialization initiative begun earlier this year. OSU’s Accelerator recently announced its first 13 clients.
The OSU Advantage Accelerator is a component of the South Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN, which was made possible by recent legislative approval and funding.Oregon State University Advantage Media Contact: Angela Yeager Source:
Mark Lieberman, 541-737-9016
Auditions are set for Wednesday, Oct. 9, and Thursday, Oct. 10, for the Oregon State University Theatre’s production of “The King of Spain's Daughter.”
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Auditions are set for Wednesday, Oct. 9, and Thursday, Oct. 10, for the Oregon State University Theatre’s production of “The King of Spain's Daughter.”
Auditions will begin at 7 p.m. at the Withycombe Hall lab theater on the OSU campus. The play will be presented Dec. 5-7.
“The King of Spain’s Daughter,” a one act comedy by Teresa Deevy, will be an unusual presentation. The production will be “shadowed” by interpreters using American Sign Language. For every speaking actor there will be an interpreting actor in costume.
The cast includes parts for a female lead and two male actors. All OSU students and members of the community are welcome to audition.
For more information contact the director, Charlotte Headrick, at email@example.comCollege of Liberal Arts Media Contact: Angela Yeager Source:
A new study by OSU researchers has found that snow melts faster in forests that have been burned, raising concern about earlier seasonal runoff in streams.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – When a major wildfire destroys a large forested area in the seasonal snow zone, snow tends to accumulate at a greater level in the burned area than in adjacent forests. But a new study found that the snowpack melts much quicker in these charred areas, potentially changing the seasonal runoff pattern of rivers and streams.
The study by Oregon State University researchers, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, documented a 40 percent reduction of albedo – or reflectivity – of snow in the burned forest during snowmelt, and a 60 percent increase in solar radiation reaching the snow surface.
The reason, the researchers say, is that fires burn away the forest canopy and later, the charred tree snags shed burned particles onto the snow, lowering its reflectivity and causing it to absorb more solar radiation.
Results of the study were published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
“As the snow accumulates in the winter, you don’t see much of a difference in albedo between a healthy, unburned forest and a charred forest,” said Kelly Gleason, an OSU doctoral student in geography and lead author on the study. “But when the snow begins to melt in the spring, large amounts of charred debris are left behind, darkening the snow to a surprising extent.”
In the study site, at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet in the Oregon High Cascades near the headwaters of the McKenzie River, the researchers founded that the snowpack in the charred forest disappeared 23 days earlier and had twice the “ablation” or melting rate than an adjacent unburned forest in the same watershed.
Anne Nolin, who is Gleason’s major professor and a co-author on the study, said the researchers have not yet examined the hydrological effect of this earlier melting, but “logic suggests that it would contribute to what already is a problem under climate change – earlier seasonal runoff of winter snow.”
“The impact of these charred particles is significant,” said Nolin, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “They are really dark – much darker than the needles, lichens and other naturally occurring materials that fall in a healthy, unburned forest.
“We know that the shedding of the charred particles lasts at least two years – and it might extend as long as eight to 10 years before the trees fall,” she added. “It has a major impact on snowmelt that hasn’t fully been appreciated.”
The problem may be compounded in the future as climate change is expected to significantly increase the occurrence of wildfires in the western United States – and perhaps beyond.
“Most of the precipitation in the mountains of the western U.S. falls as snow and the accumulated snowpack acts as kind of a winter reservoir, holding back water until summer when the highest demand for it occurs,” Gleason pointed out. “Our findings could help resource managers better anticipate the availability of water in areas that have been affected by severe forest fires.”
Such areas are increasingly plentiful, according to Nolin. The OSU researchers conducted a spatial analysis of major forest fires from 2000 to 2012 and found that more than 80 percent of those fires in the western U.S. were in the seasonal snow zone, and were on average 4.4 times larger than fires outside the seasonal snow zone. Nearly half of those major fires were within the Columbia River basin, especially in Idaho and the northern Rockey Mountains.
Other areas are affected as well, including the southern Oregon/northern California mountain regions, and the high country of Arizona and New Mexico. The amount of burned area since 2000 that the OSU researchers examined in their spatial analysis of where forest fires occurred in the seasonal snow zone was roughly the size of Ohio.
“It’s a bit of a paradox,” Nolin said. “Other studies have shown that when you remove the dark forest canopy and expose the snow, the area gets brighter and acts as a negative forcing on atmospheric temperatures, slowing climate change. But hydrologically, the effect is the opposite – the increased solar radiation and decreased snow albedo causes much earlier snowmelt, potentially amplifying the effects of climate change.
“What does it mean for your water supply when headwater catchments burn, the snow melts faster and the spring runoff begins even earlier?” she added. “It is a provocative question for resource managers.”College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Kelly Gleason, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Nolin, 541-737-8051 (cell phone: 541-740-6804); email@example.comMultimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Researchers using an innovative underwater imaging system have taken millions of photos of plankton – and now they are seeking help from the public to identify the species.
NEWPORT, Ore. – Researchers using an innovative underwater imaging system have taken millions of photos of plankton ranging from tiny zooplankton to small jellyfish – and now they are seeking help from the public to identify the species.
The “Plankton Portal” project is a partnership between the University of Miami, Oregon State University and Zooniverse.org to engage volunteers in an online citizen science effort.
“One of the goals of the project is discovery,” said Robert Cowen, new director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., who led the project to capture the images while at Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. “Computers can take pictures and even analyze images, but it takes humans to identify relationships to other organisms and recognize their behavior.
“Computers don’t really care about context – whether something is up or down in the water column and what else might be in the neighborhood,” he added. “People can do that. And we hope to have thousands of them look at the images.”
Interested persons may sign up for the project at www.planktonportal.org, which goes online this week (the official launch is Sept. 17).
Zooniverse.org is a popular citizen science website that engages millions of participants to study everything from far-away stars, to whale sounds, to cancer cells – and aid scientists with their observations. It works by training volunteers and validating their credibility by how often their observations are accurate.
“It is an increasingly popular pursuit for people interested in science and nature – from high school students to senior citizens,” said Jessica Luo, a University of Miami doctoral student working with Cowen.
“Each image is looked at by multiple users and identification is done by a weighting system,” said Luo, who is now working at OSU’s Hatfield center. “The system not only looks for consensus, but rapidity of conclusion. It works amazingly well and the data from this project will help us better begin to explore the thousands of species in the planktonic world.”
With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Geosciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Cowen developed the “In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System,” or ISIIS, while at Miami – along with Cedric Guigand of UM and Charles Cousin of Bellamare, LLC.
ISIIS combines shadowgraph imaging with a high-resolution line-scan camera to record plankton at 17 images per second. Cowen and his colleagues have used the system to study larval fish, crustaceans and jellyfish in diverse marine systems, including the Gulf of Mexico, the mid-Atlantic Ocean, the California coast, and the Mediterranean Sea.
At the same time ISIIS is capturing images, he says, other instruments are recording oceanographic conditions, including temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and other measurements. These data, coupled with the images, are available to the public via Zooniverse.org.
“In three days, we can collect data that would take us more than three years to analyze,” Cowen said, “which is why we need the help of the public. With the volume ISIIS generates, it is impossible for a handful of scientists to classify every image by hand, which is why we are exploring different options for image analysis – from automatic image recognition software to crowd-sourcing to citizen scientists.”
Luo said the researchers hope to secure future funding to study plankton – which includes a variety of crustaceans and jellyfish in the water column – off the Pacific Northwest coast.
“Most images of plankton are taken in a laboratory, or collected from nets on a ship,” said Cowen, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “ISIIS gives us the rare ability to see them in their natural environment, which is a unique perspective that will enable us to learn more about them and the critical role they play in the marine food web.”
Other researchers on the project include graduate student Adam Greer, and undergraduate students Dorothy Tang, Ben Grassian and Jenna Binstein – all at the University of Miami.Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Jessica Luo, 650-387-5700; Jessica.luo@firstname.lastname@example.org;
Bob Cowen, 541-867-0211; Robert.Cowen@oregonstate.eduMultimedia Downloads Multimedia:
An analysis of 446 compounds found just two that had a surprising impact on the innate immune system in humans - the resveratrol in red grapes and pterostilbene from blueberries.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – In an analysis of 446 compounds for their the ability to boost the innate immune system in humans, researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University discovered just two that stood out from the crowd – the resveratrol found in red grapes and a compound called pterostilbene from blueberries.
Both of these compounds, which are called stilbenoids, worked in synergy with vitamin D and had a significant impact in raising the expression of the human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, or CAMP gene, that is involved in immune function.
The findings were made in laboratory cell cultures and do not prove that similar results would occur as a result of dietary intake, the scientists said, but do add more interest to the potential of some foods to improve the immune response.
The research was published today in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, in studies supported by the National Institutes of Health.
“Out of a study of hundreds of compounds, just these two popped right out,” said Adrian Gombart, an LPI principal investigator and associate professor in the OSU College of Science. “Their synergy with vitamin D to increase CAMP gene expression was significant and intriguing. It’s a pretty interesting interaction.”
Resveratrol has been the subject of dozens of studies for a range of possible benefits, from improving cardiovascular health to fighting cancer and reducing inflammation. This research is the first to show a clear synergy with vitamin D that increased CAMP expression by several times, scientists said.
The CAMP gene itself is also the subject of much study, as it has been shown to play a key role in the “innate” immune system, or the body’s first line of defense and ability to combat bacterial infection. The innate immune response is especially important as many antibiotics increasingly lose their effectiveness.
A strong link has been established between adequate vitamin D levels and the function of the CAMP gene, and the new research suggests that certain other compounds may play a role as well.
Stilbenoids are compounds produced by plants to fight infections, and in human biology appear to affect some of the signaling pathways that allow vitamin D to do its job, researchers said. It appears that combining these compounds with vitamin D has considerably more biological impact than any of them would separately.
Continued research could lead to a better understanding of how diet and nutrition affect immune function, and possibly lead to the development of therapeutically useful natural compounds that could boost the innate immune response, the researchers said in their report.
Despite the interest in compounds such as resveratrol and pterostilbene, their bioavailability remains a question, the researchers said. Some applications that may evolve could be with topical use to improve barrier defense in wounds or infections, they said.
The regulation of the CAMP gene by vitamin D was discovered by Gombart, and researchers are still learning more about how it and other compounds affect immune function. The unique biological pathways involved are found in only two groups of animals – humans and non-human primates. Their importance in the immune response could be one reason those pathways have survived through millions of years of separate evolution of these species.Linus Pauling Institute Media Contact: David Stauth Source:
Adrian Gombart, 541-737-8018Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Researchers are gaining a new appreciation of the critical role that gut microbes play in the immune system, and how their disruption may lead to disease.
CORVALLIS, Ore. –A new understanding of the essential role of gut microbes in the immune system may hold the key to dealing with some of the more significant health problems facing people in the world today, Oregon State University researchers say in a new analysis.
Problems ranging from autoimmune disease to clinical depression and simple obesity may in fact be linked to immune dysfunction that begins with a “failure to communicate” in the human gut, the scientists say. Health care of the future may include personalized diagnosis of an individual’s “microbiome” to determine what prebiotics or probiotics are needed to provide balance.
Appropriate sanitation such as clean water and sewers are good. But some erroneous lessons in health care may need to be unlearned – leaving behind the fear of dirt, the love of antimicrobial cleansers, and the outdated notion that an antibiotic is always a good idea. We live in a world of “germs” and many of them are good for us.
“Asked about their immune system, most people might think of white blood cells, lymph glands or vaccines,” said Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, author of a new report in Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, and assistant professor and physician in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences. “They would be surprised that’s not where most of the action is. Our intestines contain more immune cells than the entire rest of our body.
“The human gut plays a huge role in immune function,” Shulzhenko said. “This is little appreciated by people who think its only role is digestion. The combined number of genes in the microbiota genome is 150 times larger than the person in which they reside. They do help us digest food, but they do a lot more than that.”
An emerging theory of disease, Shulzhenko said, is a disruption in the “crosstalk” between the microbes in the human gut and other cells involved in the immune system and metabolic processes.
“In a healthy person, these microbes in the gut stimulate the immune system as needed, and it in turn talks back,” Shulzhenko said. “There’s an increasing disruption of these microbes from modern lifestyle, diet, overuse of antibiotics and other issues. With that disruption, the conversation is breaking down.”
An explosion of research in the field of genomic sequencing is for the first time allowing researchers to understand some of this conversation and appreciate its significance, Shulzhenko said. The results are surprising, with links that lead to a range of diseases, including celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Obesity may be related. And some studies have found relevance to depression, late-onset autism, allergies, asthma and cancer.
In the new review, researchers analyzed how microbe dysfunction can sometimes result in malabsorption and diarrhea, which affects tens of millions of children worldwide and is often not cured merely by better nutrition. In contrast, a high-fat diet may cause the gut microbes to quickly adapt to and prefer these foods, leading to increased lipid absorption and weight gain.
The chronic inflammation linked to most of the diseases that kill people in the developed world today – heart disease, cancer, diabetes – may begin with dysfunctional gut microbiota.
Understanding these processes is a first step to addressing them, Shulzhenko said. Once researchers have a better idea of what constitutes healthy microbiota in the gut, they may be able to personalize therapies to restore that balance. It should also be possible to identify and use new types of probiotics to mitigate the impact of antibiotics, when such drugs are necessary and must be used.
Such approaches are “an exciting target for therapeutic interventions” to treat health problems in the future, the researchers concluded.
The study, supported by OSU, included researchers from both the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Pharmacy.College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact: David Stauth Source:
Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, 541-737-1051
OSU researchers have identifed one of the causes of the "white plague," a disease that is causing great damage to coral reefs in the Carribean Sea.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – They call it the “white plague,” and like its black counterpart from the Middle Ages, it conjures up visions of catastrophic death, with a cause that was at first uncertain even as it led to widespread destruction – on marine corals in the Caribbean Sea.
Now one of the possible causes of this growing disease epidemic has been identified – a group of viruses that are known as small, circular, single-strand DNA (or SCSD) viruses. Researchers in the College of Science at Oregon State University say these SCSD viruses are associated with a dramatic increase in the white plague that has erupted in recent decades.
Prior to this, it had been believed that the white plague was caused primarily by bacterial pathogens. Researchers are anxious to learn more about this disease and possible ways to prevent it, because its impact on coral reef health has exploded.
“Twenty years ago you had to look pretty hard to find any occurrences of this disease, and now it’s everywhere,” said Nitzan Soffer, a doctoral student in the Department of Microbiology at OSU and lead author on a new study just published in the International Society for Microbial Ecology. “It moves fast and can wipe out a small coral colony in a few days.
“In recent years the white plague has killed 70-80 percent of some coral reefs,” Soffer said. “There are 20 or more unknown pathogens that affect corals and in the past we’ve too-often overlooked the role of viruses, which sometimes can spread very fast.”
This is one of the first studies to show viral association with a severe disease epidemic, scientists said. It was supported by the National Science Foundation.
Marine wildlife diseases are increasing in prevalence, the researchers pointed out. Reports of non-bleaching coral disease have increased more than 50 times since 1965, and are contributing to declines in coral abundance and cover.
White plague is one of the worst. It causes rapid tissue loss, affects many species of coral, and can cause partial or total colony mortality. Some, but not all types are associated with bacteria. Now it appears that viruses also play a role. Corals with white plague disease have higher viral diversity than their healthy counterparts, the study concluded.
Increasing temperatures that stress corals and make them more vulnerable may be part of the equation, because the disease often appears to be at its worst by the end of summer. Overfishing that allows more algae to grow on corals may help spread pathogens, researchers said, as can pollution caused by sewage outflows in some marine habitats.
Viral infection, by itself, does not necessarily cause major problems, the researchers noted. Many healthy corals are infected with herpes-like viruses that are persistent but not fatal, as in many other vertebrate hosts, including humans.College of Science Media Contact: David Stauth Source: