Thursday, November 17, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Leprosy in Squirrels

Red squirrel with leprosy (from NPR).

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, a recent publication in the journal Science announced the discovery that two strains of leprosy bacteria in Great Britain, one thought to have been wiped out centuries ago, are alive and well in their red squirrel  (Sciurus vulgaris) population.  Fortunately, so far the disease has not been transferred from these squirrels to humans, but the prevalent idea that this disease is almost exclusively spread from human-to-human contact is being re-examined.  It is already known that the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) here in the United States carries a strain of leprosy to which humans are susceptible, but it was thought that this transference method was a fluke.  Now scientists are looking into the possibility that animal-to-human transference may be responsible for the stubborn resistance of the disease to eradication in countries such as India and Brazil.

For now, all we can do is keep an eye on those ubiquitous bushy-tailed arboreal rodents in our own backyards and wonder...

From Pinterest (photographer Dan Codd)

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