STATES CHRONICLE – Specialists from Great Britain have revealed the existence of dangerous bacteria carried around by red squirrels. They seemed to be infected with a form of human leprosy. Unfortunately, the number of red squirrels started decreasing, slowly disappearing from the British Isles. Researchers have decided to conduct a study to reveal which is the source of this infection.
They have tested more than a hundred species of animals to establish the exact cause of the disease. They found out that 25 roadkill individuals who were gathered from the Brownsea Island were all carrying the dangerous bacteria. Mycobacterium leprae was last registered to affect British population back in the 1500s. Unfortunately, the bacteria encountered in squirrels are very similar with those which used to affect people.
The new study was recently published in the Science magazine on November 9. Stewart T. Cole, who is the director of the Global Health Institute at the Federal Polytechnical School of Lausanne, in Switzerland, has argued that squirrels should not constitute a threat to humans. As far as we know, all squirrels are shy and do not usually let people touch them. That could be considered a significant advantage.
However, Dr. Cole has also asserted that those people who hunt armadillos were predisposed to the dangerous bacteria, being affected by leprosy. We need to be aware of the fact that there is a risk, no matter how decreased are the possibilities. Dr. Cole advised park rangers to protect themselves by wearing gloves when handling squirrels.
Back a few years, Europeans made use of traps to capture innocent squirrels for their fur or meat. Then, the risks would have been a lot higher than they are now. There were collected a few other squirrels from Scotland and Ireland to be tested. They proved to have an even more severe form of the disease, carrying the bacteria known as Mycobacterium lepromatosis. This kind of leprosy was revealed back in 2008. Other reports were claiming that this dangerous bacteria was popular among the people living in the Caribbean and Mexico.
Researchers have argued that not all the squirrels which were infested presented symptoms or signs of the disease. Only a few of them had significant hair loss on their feet, heads or ears. Studies have shown that during a year, people leaving in South America, Africa, and Asia get infected with this disease, the statistics revealing a total number of 220,000 cases per year.
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