Teenager infected with rat-bite fever from her pet rodent

A 17-year-old woman was infected with the rare, but treatable rat-bite fever, that developed from pet rodents that lived in her bedroom, report the doctors who treated her in the online journal BMJ Case Reports.

Rat-bite fever has been reported in writings dating as far back as 2300 years. It was originally described as a disease of the poor, but these days most cases occur in lab workers or in children with pet rodents.

The condition is often goes unrecognised and undiagnosed. Only 200 cases of rat-bite fever have been recorded in the USA since 1839.

Most cases of rat-bite fever involve a bite or scratch from a rodent, but there are several reports of infection without direct bacterial inoculation.

The young woman was admitted to hospital with pain in her right hip and lower back that had continued for two days and led to immobility. Over the proceeding two weeks, she had an intermittent fever, nausea and vomiting, and a pink rash on her hands and feet.

Her nausea and vomiting improved, but the fever continued, and she had tenderness of a joint in her pelvis, and pain in her right leg.

The doctors learnt that the woman had numerous pets including a dog, cat, horse and three pet rats. The rodents lived in her bedroom. One of these rats had died 3 weeks prior to onset of her symptoms.

A blood test returned positive for Streptobacillus moniliformis–the most common cause of ratbite fever.

The disease can have mortality as high as 13%, if left untreated. Fortunately, the woman underwent 4 weeks of antibiotics. After 5 days, her rash and fever disappeared, and the joint pain in her pelvis improved over the following weeks. She made a full recovery.


Birds of a Feather Photos of Hummingbirds Hawks & Jays

In the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona, black-chinned hummingbirds have a clever strategy to keep their nests safe: They recruit unknowing hawks for home security. Hummingbird nests cluster near hawk nests, and those hawks keep away the predatory jays that snatch hummingbird eggs, researchers reported Sept. 4 in the journal Science Advances. [Read full story about how hummingbirds recruit hawks for protection]A female black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) perches on a twig. The daily survival rate of a hummingbird nest built nearby a hawk’s nest is 31 percent, compared with only 6 percent for hummingbird nests not near hawk roosts. (Credit: Harold F. Greeney, Yanayacu Biological Station

Leaf Eating Caterpillars Use Their Poop to Trick Plants

Caterpillars that munch on corn leaves have developed a clever way to get the most nutrients from their meals: They use their poop to trick the plants into lowering their defenses.

Scientists at Pennsylvania State University recently discovered that fall armyworm caterpillars (Spodoptera frugiperda) can send chemical signals to plants through their poop, or frass.

“It turns out that the caterpillar frass tricks the plant into sensing that it is being attacked by fungal pathogens,” study co-author Dawn Luthe, a professor of plant stress biology at Pennsylvania State University, said in a statement. [In Photos: Animals That Mimic Plants]

Corn plants can deal with only one kind of attack at a time, so while a corn plant is dealing with the perceived “fungal infection,” the caterpillar is left to feast on the plant’s leaves. Normally, a plant will recognize chemical signatures from insect secretions, which helps the plant know when to raise its defenses. In many cases, this includes producing a biochemical that repels herbivores, such as insects.

But chemical signals from the caterpillar’s poop act as crafty diversions, the researchers said.

“The plant perceives that it is being attacked by a pathogen and not an insect, so it turns on its defenses against pathogens, leaving the caterpillar free to continue feeding on the plant,” Swayamjit Ray, a doctoral student in plant biology at Penn State and co-author of the paper, said in a statement. “It is an ecological strategy that has been perfected over thousands of years of evolution.”Fall armyworm caterpillars (Spodoptera frugiperda) feed on corn leaves and crevasses where the leaves meet the stalks.

Caterpillars usually feed on the leaves in the confined whorls of corn plants. The critters typically defecate in the crevasses where the leaves meet the stalk, the researchers said.

Scientists studied the biochemical relationship between fall armyworm caterpillar frass and a plant’s defensive mechanisms by performing two tests. In the first test, the scientists applied frass extract to the leaves of some corn plants and compared caterpillar growth of those that fed on treated leaves with those that munched on untreated leaves.

The second test involved measuring how frass-treated corn leaves affected defensive performance on plants exposed to a fungal pathogen — in this case, spores of a fungus that causes blight in corn (Cochliobolus heterostrophus). The scientists observed that, initially, proteins in the frass activated an insect defense in the plant, but over time, as the corn plants were exposed to more of the protein, the plants’ defenses became altered and instead began to recognize the frass protein as a fungal pathogen instead of an insect waste product. This caused the plant to defend itself against what it saw as a fungal threat instead of an insect threat.

While this may not be good news for plants suffering from a caterpillar infestation, the researchers think it may be possible to isolate the specific components in caterpillar poop that heighten a plant’s defenses against pathogens. If this is the case, the scientists said, farmers could one day develop an organic and sustainable pesticide to prevent infection and disease in crops.

Using Animal Control To Get Rid Of Unwanted Critters

Animal Control in Carlsbad, CA is responsible for dealing with most of the animal related disturbances for San Diego County, including all of the incorporated and unincorporated areas within. But you may be at a loss if you should contact the City of Carlsbad, who contracts with the County of San Diego for animal control services, or if you should contact the county itself. Here are a few guidelines you can follow to make sure that you are contacting the right department, as well as ensuring that you are not putting yourself in any unnecessary risk.

If you are just looking to adopt a pet, license one you have already, or any other pet matter that is unrelated to a disturbance you should contact the County of San Diego directly. They operate three shelters, including the one in Carlsbad, so you should not have to contact animal control in Carlsbad at all for any peaceful inquiries. Carlsbad animal control is mostly responsible for dealing with animal disturbances that pose an immediate threat to people or animals. So be sure to ask yourself how urgent your inquiry is, and that should help guide you to the correct organization.

A situation requiring animal control assistance would be suspected abuse to an animal in your neighborhood. If you here constant barking, or desperate shrieks from a nearby cat then you may need to call Carlsbad Animal Control. You should not do any private sleuthing to investigate the situation. First of all, an abused animal can typically display violent tendencies, so you may not want to pose yourself as an intruder.

Secondly, you do not want to risk your credibility by having your neighbor call the police on you for trying to “rescue” his pet. Carlsbad Animal Control employs highly trained individuals who have been primed to investigate such occurrences and determine if any abuse has occurred, and take the animal away from its owner if any danger is posed to it. Always trust the professionals to take care of the problems in their field.

If a dead animal is found on the road then you should contact the City of Carlsbad. Dead animals are not just smelly and unsightly, they can also spread disease. Do not attempt to remove the animal yourself, because you probably do not know for sure what killed it and if it poses any danger to you. Once again, just let the professionals who are paid to take care of this problem remove it for you.

Another major problem can be wild dogs roaming the area. A wild dog can be extremely dangerous, so Carlsbad Animal Control should be contacted. Many of these animals have been abused and are very afraid of people, so any attempt to scare the dog into leaving may backfire, prompting the dog to attack you in defense.

In addition, a wild dog has no way of receiving regular vaccinations, so there is a chance that it could be infected with rabies. Animal Control has the necessary training and tools to safely remove the dog, and wild dog removal should never be attempted without their assistance. And, though they may be a terrible nuisanceFree Articles, Animal Control in Carlsbad is not supposed to respond to a skunk in the backyard or an opossum. So make sure you have a genuine emergency before calling.

Animal scientists identify mutations that led to pigs that lack immune systems

Animal science researchers at Iowa State University have identified a pair of genetic mutations that cause immune deficiencies in pigs that make them uniquely good models for testing potential medical therapies for people.

The discovery of the mutations will pave the way for researchers to further develop a genetic line of pigs with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) at Iowa State and to improve husbandry and management practices for the pigs.

Christopher Tuggle, an animal science professor, said pigs born with SCID make ideal models for studying vaccines, potential cancer treatments and stem cell therapies for human medicine. That’s because their deficient immune systems can’t reject cells introduced experimentally.

“The pig is known to be an excellent model for human biology due to its similar size, physiology and genetic make-up,” Tuggle said. “This shows it has high potential as a model for many areas of testing in regenerative medicine, a new medical specialty that repairs disease instead of treating symptoms.”

Tuggle was part of a research team that published findings recently in the Journal of Immunology, a peer-reviewed academic publication, identifying two genetic mutations in pigs that lead to offspring with SCID. The editors of the journal highlighted the publication for its importance.

In collaboration with researchers at Kansas State University, ISU scientists first identified pigs with SCID around four years ago as part of an ongoing study of feed efficiency in pork production and the impact of infectious disease. The project, led by animal scientist Jack Dekkers, did not set out to breed a line of pigs with SCID, but the researchers quickly realized their value when some pigs did not show an immune response when exposed to a viral disease.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the researchers a $2.5 million grant earlier this year to improve management practices for the SCID pigs, which require a range of special considerations.

“A major challenge now is to figure out how to raise these pigs in extremely clean environments,” Tuggle said. “Our new NIH-funded project aims to meet that challenge, as well as improve upon the existing model.”

The project has attracted the interest of medical researchers across the country who want to test new regenerative therapies, Tuggle said. The SCID pigs hold particular promise for gauging the ability of stem cell-derived therapies to repair damaged tissues.

Tuggle said scientists are working on methods to use someone’s own stem cells to help heart attack victims, but mice with SCID are unreliable models for testing such advances. The SCID pigs might have a role to play in developing such therapies, he said.

“The data from pigs is likely much more accurate for predicting what stem cell derivatives will do in humans,” he said.