Viruses, bacteria and worms, Oh my!

Time is slowly marching on as Storme, disease ecologist and newly initiated molecular biologist, puts in hard hours in the laboratory back at the University of Cape Town. Preliminary results from the examination of blood slides has shown that there is a high prevalence of bacterial infections in these Karoo predators with more than half of the caracals sampled having evidence of blood parasites, which are similar to what causes biliary in domestic dogs or tick-bite fever in humans.

Blood cells from a Karoo caracal (1000x magnification). Notice the two purple dots indicated by the arrow. Many infections in the blood manifest this way.

This last week Storme has been extracting DNA from predator blood samples so that we can begin to explore genetic questions. Using a method known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), she was able to focus on parasite DNA to test if any of our predators have parasite infections of interest. What does this all mean? Well, in a nutshell, Storme has shown that she can successfully test for specific infections AND these can be sequenced to determine the exact strains in the population – we suspect these infected caracals have parasites from domestic dogs… but only time and late nights in the lab will tell!

We’re also very happy to say that we will be collaborating with researchers at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute. Data from the Karoo jackals is going to be added to work done on blood parasites in canids across Africa!

Well done Storme and keep on with the good work!

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