Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Parasite Shed in Cat Feces Kills Sea Otters

Conrad, P. (2007). Parasite Shed in Cat Feces Kills Sea Otters. Healthy Marine Ecosystems • November 2006

Endangered sea otters in California have been found to suffer lethal infections from a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, shed in cat feces. These infections may be a factor contributing to the marine mammal’s slow recovery from near extinction.

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that attacks an otter’s brain tissue, causing lesions, depression, convulsions and death.

Because cats are the only animals known to shed Toxoplasma gondii, runoff must be carrying cat feces and the parasite to the coast. From there, it is not clear how otters are getting sick. One possibility is that they are ingesting infected mussels or other filter-feeding bivalves, which accumulate pathogens in their tissues.

The parasite is usually harmless to healthy people. The exception is pregnant women, whose fetuses can develop toxoplasmosis, hence the advice for pregnant women to avoid cleaning cat litter boxes.

Once numbering more than 300,000, southern sea otters were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century for their lush pelts. They were granted protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1977, when their numbers were about 1,789. In the mid-1990s, their recovery staggered and concerns were raised about the animal’s long-term prospects. More recently their numbers seem to be rising.

Observers tallied a total of 2,692 California sea otters for the 2006 spring survey, compared with 2,100 in 2002 and 2,377 in 1995.

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