A new study has discovered the reason why bird species all over the world are suffering and dying as a result of a particular strain of malaria.
It was published in the journal ‘Global Ecology and Biogeography’ that the researchers shared their findings.
Researchers from around the world, including Dr Nicholas Clark from The University of Queensland, are working to figure out where and why the disease is spreading so fast. Despite the fact that these strains are not contagious to humans, they are spreading rapidly through hotspots of transmission around the world.
“Avian malaria now affects between 13 and 14 percent of all wild birds around the world on average, according to the World Health Organization. Blood parasites — known as haemosporidian parasites — are responsible for the disease, which is transmitted through blood-feeding insects such as mosquitoes and flies “Dr. Clark expressed himself.
“Although it poses no threat to humans, it has been shown to have significant effects on bird populations. For example, when avian malaria was introduced into Hawaii in the late 1800s to early 1900s, it was one of the primary causes of the extinction of approximately one-third of the 55 known species of Hawaiian honeycreepers, according to the Hawaiian Honeycreepers Society “Dr. Clark went on to say more.
“We’ve discovered that there are hotspots where these parasites are being transmitted all over the world. The Sahara-Arabian region was the most significant hotspot, with local hotspots in North America, Europe, and Australia, depending on different parasite variants, being the second most significant hotspot “Dr. Clark went on to say more.
According to Dr Clark, “here in Australia, some of these blood parasites are causing high infection rates in our songbirds, including silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) and many species of honeyeaters (members of the Meliphagidae family).”
With more than 53,000 wild birds examined, the research team compiled and analyzed what is likely the largest data set of wild bird infections with avian malaria parasites to have been compiled and analysed to date.
These researchers used computer models to analyze infection data in conjunction with remotely sensed environmental data (such as climate or forest conditions) and birdlife history information (such as body size and migration patterns) to determine which factors best described the risk of contracting avian malaria parasites.
In order to better understand infectious disease hazards, Dr. Konstans Wells, who directs the Biodiversity and Health Ecology research group at Swansea University, says that predicting the conditions that allow wild birds to become infected with avian malaria is critical.
“Because each bird species is unique in its ecological niche and is exposed to disease-transmitting insects in a different way during breeding and migration, infection risks for different bird species are not the same,” he explained.
“Conditions that allow infection to occur in different parts of the world are completely dependent on the context in which they occur. For example, long-distance migrating birds were more likely to be infected in some continents than in others, and short-distance migrants were more likely to be infected in some continents than in others “He went on to say more.
“With so many factors at play, there is no simple answer, but we will continue to research to determine the most effective ways to protect the world’s bird species from this deadly disease,” he concluded.