Be swamp-conscious: Pet owners should be aware of deadly pathogen in Gainesville

30 Sep

Research corner

Research Corner is a platform for scientists to share their research and its significance through blogging. Scientists who wish to contribute to Layman’s Terms Media can simply send blog pitches to rburt004@fiu.edu.  Scientists will have an opportunity to collaborate with an editor to make sure their work is concise and understandable. Any research is welcome! 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————–

My name is Jackson Presser and I am a master's student in the School of Natural Resources and Environment  pursuing a degree in Interdisciplinary Ecology.  I have worked in a lab for almost 3 years doing field and laboratory research on the emerging pathogen Pythium insidiosum(PI).  I think I have truly found my calling in research science.  I have never in my life been so exited/motivated to learn and expand my knowledge base.

My name is Jackson Presser and I am a master’s student in the School of Natural Resources and Environment pursuing a degree in Interdisciplinary Ecology. I have worked in a lab for almost 3 years doing field and laboratory research on the emerging pathogen Pythium insidiosum(PI). I think I have truly found my calling in research science. I have never in my life been so exited/motivated to learn and expand my knowledge base.

A researcher at the University of Florida has been conducting research on a fungal-like organism called Pythium insidiosum. Below, Jackson Presser, a graduate student at the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment shares his discoveries about the deadly, disease-causing oomycete that can infect both plants and animals. Horse, dog and cattle owners in north central Florida should be aware of the symptoms and preventative measures they can take to keep their pets and livestock safe from a disease known as Pythiosis. 

By: Jackson Presser

Pythiosis is a deadly disease of horses, dogs, cattle and other warm-blooded animals in tropical and subtropical regions, including Florida and the southeast United States (Mendoza, 2009). The disease also infects humans in Southeast Asia and is considered a potential emerging pathogen in the United States due to its expanding geographic and the number and variety of available hosts. The organism responsible for pythiosis is Pythium insidiosum, a fungal-like organism (oomycete) that is the only mammalian pathogen in a genus of plant pathogens (de Cock et al., 1987).  Not much is known about the life cycle of Pythium other than how it reproduces in the lab.  It is theorized that Pythium uses a plant host to sustain itself and reproduce in the environment, making the pathogen “trans-kingdom,”or able to infect both plants and animals.

Pythium insidiosum is common in stagnant, swampy water (lakes/ponds with water temperatures ranging from 68F-95F) worldwide, and the very type of water that is a staple of Gainesville and surrounding areas.  Pythiosis affects its host depending on how it is introduced. Dogs, horses, cattle and other mammals can be infected simply by wading or drinking water that has been tainted with the infection.  Since Pythium cannot penetrate healthy tissue the exposed area must already have an area of broken skin.  Once infected, death will result if left untreated.

Pythium insidiosum’s ideal living conditions:

Here is the map of the lakes sampled The colors just represent the different genetic clusters. Red is cluster 1, Green is cluster 3, Blue is cluster 4.

Here is the map of the lakes sampled
The colors just represent the different genetic clusters. Red is cluster 1, Green is cluster 3, Blue is cluster 4.

  • The organism favors water temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit or more. They can be found at lower temperatures, but detection rate declines significantly with temperature below 75 degrees Celsius.
  • Water can be murky or clear.
  • Warmer water and more available sunlight favor the reproduction of the organism.
  • Reeds, lilies and grasses are preferable.
  • Dark, thick, muddy soil is best
  • Agricultural runoff seems to help with population density.  For example,  the more remote the body of water the less chance of finding the organism.

 Symptoms:

Symptoms can vary depending on where the animal is infected. Some of the most common symptoms include skin lesions that do not heal, or gastrointestinal problems such as loose stools, vomiting or loss of appetite.

Treatment:

Currently there are several forms of treatment available, all of which have varying degrees of success.  There is no guarantee that treatment will be successful, even in humans.  Currently the best form of treatment is prevention. Researchers advise pet owners to keep animals out of the water during the warm spring and summer months.  If exposure does occur, wash the infected area thoroughly with bleach spray, and plenty of soap and water.  If symptoms progress, owners should seek veterinary care right away.

Acknowledgements:

  • We thank Dr. Barbara Sheppard in the College of Veterinary Medicine for clinical isolates.
  • This research is funded by the Emerging Pathogens Institute and UF Office of Research.

References:

  • De Cock, A. W. A. M., et al. Pythium insidiosum sp. nov., the etiologic agent of pythiosis. J. Clin. Microbiol. 25 (1987).
  • Mendoza, L. in Oomycete Genetics and Genomics: Diversity, Interactions, and Research Tools (eds K. Lamour & S. Kamoun) (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009).
  • Mendoza, L., Hernandez, F. & Ajello, L. Life cycle of the human and animal Oomycete pathogen Pythium insidiosum. J. Clin. Microbiol. 31, 2967-2973 (1993).
  • Schurko, A. M. et al. A molecular phylogeny of Pythium insidiosum. Mycol. Res. 107, 537-544 (2003).

 

Contact information:

Jackson Presser

Jwp1985@epi.ufl.edu

850-628-4581

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Be swamp-conscious: Pet owners should be aware of deadly pathogen in Gainesville”

  1. Dz Nuts September 30, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    FIRST

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Editor’s picks for 2013 | Layman's Terms Media - December 2, 2013

    […] Be swamp-conscious: Pet owners should be aware of deadly pathogen in Gainesville: By Jackson Presser Pythium insidiosum is common in stagnant, swampy water (lakes/ponds with water temperatures ranging from 68F-95F) worldwide, and the very type of water that is a staple of Gainesville and surrounding areas.  Pythiosis affects its host depending on how it is introduced. Dogs, horses, cattle and other mammals can be infected simply by wading or drinking water that has been tainted with the infection. —> Continue reading […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: