Bacteria Harmful To Humans Discovered In Frogs For The First Time

Posted: Apr 2 2017, 2:21pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Bacteria Harmful to Humans Discovered in Frogs for the First Time
Credit: VirginiaTech

Scientists discover previously unknown strains of Brucella bacteria in amphibians

A bacterium that usually affects humans and livestock has now shown up in amphibians for the first time.

Scientists from Virginia Tech have recently discovered previously unknown strains of Brucella bacteria in many frog species including African bullfrogs.

Brucella bacterium is not known for moving on to a new host. It is often seen in cattle, sheep, goats and other domesticated animals and exposure to Brucella can lead to infection in humans. But researchers are surprised after finding strains of Brucella bacteria in frog species. At present, they are not aware of the potential effects of those strains on humans but they believe the discovery represents a significant cause of concern.

“Since the 1980s, we had the idea of Brucella bacteria as having strong preferences for particular hosts,” said researcher Rebecca Wattam. “Now, we know that these bacteria are much more diverse than we’d previously thought. Our view of the Brucella world is expanding dramatically.”

The genus Brucella currently consists of twelve species which are identified by their hosts and their ability to cause diseases. For instance, Brucellosis is a common infectious disease caused by Brucella bacteria. The disease can occur in both animals and humans and can be devastating.

In the past few years, more and more Brucella strains have been reported from cold-blooded hosts like African bullfrogs, big-eyed tree frogs, White’s tree frog and Pacman frog.

When researchers genetically analyzed the newfound strains of Brucella in amphibians and compared them with more well-known strains found in mammals, they discovered unexpected and distinctive characteristics not seen in other common strains. For example, they observed a unique whip-like appendage on them which enables bacteria to move through the environment.

While expansion of Brucella strains is worrying, the new strains might help scientists to better understand how those strains evolved and spread from one host to another.

“It’s a great time to be a biologist, especially with metagenomic analysis,” said Wattam. “We know some things really well, but we now have the tools to explore what we never imagined. In the light of all this new information, we definitely need new ways of looking at bacteria and how we live with them.”

The study was published in journal Scientific Reports.

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