A spin-off from Moredun’s expertise on orf virus of sheep has been our ability to characterise a squirrel pox virus (SQPV) associated with deaths in red squirrels. Moredun developed an assay to measure antibody to SQPV in squirrel serum. This test has shown that grey squirrels in England had a high prevalence of antibody while those in Scotland were free of antibody. In 2005, it was demonstrated that grey squirrels with antibody to SQPV had crossed the border. The first red squirrel to die of SQPV was confirmed by Moredun in 2007. The situation is being monitored in collaboration with the Red Squirrels in South Scotland Project.
For further information about Moredun's work on the squirrelpox virus please contact Dr Colin McInnes
Marine mammal pathology surveillance has recently been complemented by the development of PCR based testing for viruses of dolphins, whales and seals.
In Scotland we have approximately 27 different species of sea mammals that reside in our coastal waters, and whale, dolphin and seal watching is becoming a significant area of ecotourism. However there are more than just economic reasons for monitoring changes in sea mammal distribution, population dynamics and especially causes of mortality; these long lived animals are key sentinels of the health of both the marine and coastal environments. Monitoring enables recognition of many adverse effects of human activity in these finely balanced ecosystems. They may also identify potential hazards to human health.
Moredun and SAC work together to investigate the causes of death in sea mammals stranded around the Scottish coastline. If the animals are too big to be transported to the laboratory, post-mortem examinations have to be performed where the animals have been found on the beach.
For further information about Moredun's work in marine mammal pathology please contact Dr Mark Dagleish
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