A pinboard by
Courtney Waugh

Postdoc, Norwegian University of Science and Technology


Climate change is affecting the distribution and spread of infectious diseases, where pollutants are making organisms more susceptible to these diseases. The combined effects of climate change and pollution on disease persistence in the environment is therefore theoretically predicted to have a severe effect on humans, wildlife and the environment.


Vertical distribution of lipids, fatty acids and organochlorine contaminants in the blubber of southern hemisphere humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae).

Abstract: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as toxic lipophilic organochlorine (OC) compounds, accumulate in the blubber tissue of marine mammals. Toxicological sampling methods most frequently target only the superficial blubber layer. Vertical distribution of these contaminants through the blubber mantle may, however, not be homogenous and could reflect any dissemination of lipids and fatty acids (FAs). It is therefore critical to assess stratification patterns in a species of interest as a quality control measure for interpretation of toxicological data. Here, we analysed and compared the distribution of lipids, FAs, and OCs in the outermost and innermost blubber layer of southern hemisphere humpback whales. FA stratification was evident for short-chain (≤18) monounsaturated fatty acids (SC-MUFA), which were concentrated in the outer layer, consistent with the thermoregulatory role of this blubber layer. This stratification was, however, not reflected in OC distribution, which was similar in the inner and outer blubber layers of male humpback whales. By comparison, a noticeable gradient in total blubber lipid from the outer to the inner layer was observed in two lactating females, which coincided with higher lipid normalised contaminant levels in the inner layer. This study contains the most comprehensive assessment of humpback whale blubber stratification to date, however, further investigation of biological and ecological influencing factors is required.

Pub.: 10 Dec '13, Pinned: 10 Aug '17

Infection with koala retrovirus subgroup B (KoRV-B), but not KoRV-A, is associated with chlamydial disease in free-ranging koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus).

Abstract: The virulence of chlamydial infection in wild koalas is highly variable between individuals. Some koalas can be infected (PCR positive) with Chlamydia for long periods but remain asymptomatic, whereas others develop clinical disease. Chlamydia in the koala has traditionally been studied without regard to coinfection with other pathogens, although koalas are usually subject to infection with koala retrovirus (KoRV). Retroviruses can be immunosuppressive, and there is evidence of an immunosuppressive effect of KoRV in vitro. Originally thought to be a single endogenous strain, a new, potentially more virulent exogenous variant (KoRV-B) was recently reported. We hypothesized that KoRV-B might significantly alter chlamydial disease outcomes in koalas, presumably via immunosuppression. By studying sub-groups of Chlamydia and KoRV infected koalas in the wild, we found that neither total KoRV load (either viraemia or proviral copies per genome), nor chlamydial infection level or strain type, was significantly associated with chlamydial disease risk. However, PCR positivity with KoRV-B was significantly associated with chlamydial disease in koalas (p = 0.02961). This represents an example of a recently evolved virus variant that may be predisposing its host (the koala) to overt clinical disease when co-infected with an otherwise asymptomatic bacterial pathogen (Chlamydia).

Pub.: 10 Mar '17, Pinned: 10 Aug '17