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Avian Influenza Prevalence Correlated to Mercury Concentrations in Wild Waterfowl—Science to Understand Combined Pathogen and Contaminant Exposure on Wildlife Health - USGS

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  • Avian Influenza Prevalence Correlated to Mercury Concentrations in Wild Waterfowl—Science to Understand Combined Pathogen and Contaminant Exposure on Wildlife Health - USGS

    November 3, 2022
    By Environmental Health Program

    Low pathogenic avian influenza infections were directly correlated with blood mercury concentrations in wild waterfowl, indicating that mercury exposure may be related to pathogen susceptibility. Further study is needed to determine if and how mercury and other environmental contaminant exposures may affect disease susceptibility in wildlife.

    Wild waterfowl, serve as natural reservoirs for low pathogenic avian influenza viruses. Previous studies by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers have improved our understanding of viral transmission, including environmental persistence and infection prevalence across space and time.

    ... Although the transmission of avian influenza is regularly under investigation, few studies have investigated how vulnerability to infection can be affected by exposure to environmental contaminants such as mercury in wetland habitats inhabited by waterfowl. This gap in information limits our understanding of how contaminants and pathogens interact to influence wildlife health.

    To improve the understanding of how mercury contamination across the landscape may affect avian influenza transmission, USGS scientists and their collaborators collected approximately 750 samples from 11 species of wild waterfowl in the Central Valley and San Francisco Bay Estuary of California. These two areas have documented mercury contamination from atmospheric deposition and from industrial outputs or gold mining and are important sites for overwintering waterfowl.

    ... In this study, researchers reported that active and prior (as indicated by the presence of antibodies) avian influenza infections were greater in wild ducks with higher average blood mercury concentrations. The positive relation between influenza infection and mercury concentrations was stronger when measuring antibodies indicative of prior infection than of active infection. Furthermore, influenza antibody prevalence was related to average mercury concentration across all species, with some differences among individual species likely owing to habitat use, diet, and immunology.

    https://www.usgs.gov/programs/enviro...rcury#overview
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