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➤ Wild, from Page 8 FrogWatch USA To truly know the health of frog populations, scientific monitoring is needed. Fortunately, such a program, driven by citizen scientists, has been around since 1998: FrogWatch USA. Now managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, it tracks frog populations throughout the United States. FrogWatch participants choose a monitoring site that is easily accessible and convenient to listen to frogs that are calling throughout the warmer months. The monitoring is easy, with a bit of training, which the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, in Front Royal, is offering in April. SCBI has been participating in FrogWatch for four years. Having participated in FrogWatch for a number of years, I find it a great way to not only get to know our frogs’ calls and habits but also to experience the few lovely minutes of mindfulness it takes in the evening to listen for them. Newly discovered bacterium carrying Lyme disease One downside to the relatively warm winter here is that ticks seem to be more active, especially black-legged (aka deer) ticks (Ixodes scapularis), which carry Lyme disease. And as if we need more bad news about this disease here, an article in the Feb. 16 issue of Scientific American magazine says
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that more than one bacterium may cause the disease. The source of the article is a new study whose results were published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases recently. The scientific community studying Lyme has argued about the cause since the disease was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut. While Borrelia burgdorferi, a single spiral-shaped bacterium, or spyrochete, has long been considered by many scientists to be the main cause of the disease, the article says, there have been indications that this bacterium’s ecology is more complex than first thought. Now the authors of the new study, a team of scientists at Mayo Clinic, has found that, in rare cases, Lyme could be caused by a different bacterial species, which they propose naming Borrelia mayonii. Nailing down the role of B. burgdorferi has been a problem because this bacterium tends not to linger inside the human body, and colonies of it grow slowly, so isolating and growing it is “next to impossible,” according to the article. And it can genetically recombine to create different strains that behave differently inside the human body. mayonii, on the other hand, apparently proliferates in blood, helping the Mayo Clinic researchers to isolate and grow it easily. It also seems to cause symptoms that drastically differ from the typical bullseye rash associated with Lyme, including nausea, vomiting, spotty rashes and
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The black-legged, or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) — could it be carrying another cause of Lyme disease? neurological problems, which leads to about a third of patients being hospitalized, according to the Science article. These differences potentially complicate diagnosis and treatment of Lyme. According to the study, only six Americans since 2012 have been infected with B. mayonii, but the spirochete is likely not a new organism, considering its evolutionary tree. Rifts in the scientific community could be because, as one scientist is quoted as saying, “the complicated
and intricate dance that takes place between the ticks, their spirochetes and their numerous animal and human hosts . . . is immensely difficult to track and understand.” Another hole in the ozone layer? Remember that hole in the ozone layer scientists discovered over Antarctica in the 1980s? While not exactly a hole, the ozone layer
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