Par­a­sites linked to panda’s death, tests say

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By YANG YANG yangyangs@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Bac­te­ria and tox­o­plasma in­fec­tion — which in­volves par­a­sites in blood and body tis­sue — caused the death of a fe­male gi­ant panda at Zhengzhou Zoo, ac­cord­ing to the find­ings of a month­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion, zoo au­thor­i­ties con­firmed on Wed­nes­day.

But ex­perts are still won­der­ing how the panda be­came in­fected at the zoo, which is lo­cated in the cap­i­tal of He­nan prov­ince.

On Feb 9, Jinyi, the fe­male panda, died at the age of 7. Since pan­das are nor­mally ex­pected to live up to 25 years, the death aroused par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion.

Tis­sue and fluid sam­ples from Jinyi’s body were sent to ex­perts at the Changchun-based Vet­eri­nary In­sti­tute of the Academy of Mil­i­tary Med­i­cal Sci­ences in north­east­ern China.

They de­ter­mined that Jinyi was in­fected by bac­te­ria and suf­fered from tox­o­plasma, or par­a­sites. Those con­di­tions re­sulted in acute com­pli­ca­tions such as re­peated vom­it­ing and mas­sive bleed­ing of the stomach and in­testines. The panda even­tu­ally died of heart and lung fail­ure.

But ex­perts can’t de­ter­mine ex­actly which bac­te­ria was re­spon­si­ble. They were un­able to sep­a­rate the most vir­u­lent bac­te­ria from oth­ers be­cause the zoo gave the panda an­tibi­otics for pos­si­ble in­fec­tions.

“This is also the first time we found tox­o­plasma in a gi­ant panda, so we know very lit­tle about the in­fec­tion and its pathol­ogy as it re­lates to this an­i­mal,” said Wang Cheng­dong, head of the an­i­mal man­age­ment depart­ment at the China Con­ser­va­tion and Re­search Cen­ter for the Gi­ant Panda at Wo­long Gi­ant Panda Re­serve, Sichuan prov­ince, where Jinyi was orig­i­nally raised.

Be­fore Jinyi was sent to Zhengzhou in 2011 to­gether with male panda Long­sheng, the cen­ter gave her a thor­ough phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion. Dur­ing the years the pair lived at Zhengzhou Zoo, vet­eri­nar­i­ans were sent from Sichuan to ex­am­ine the pan­das once or twice each year, Wang said.

“But the ex­ams did not in­clude tox­o­plasma tests. Since we have now found the first case, we will in­clude tox­o­plasma as one of the items of our ex­am­i­na­tions,” he said.

Tox­o­plasma in­fec­tion has been found in many mam­mals, in­clud­ing hu­mans, and also in birds.

“Usu­ally, tox­o­plasma will not cause death, ac­cord­ing to my knowl­edge, but there are dif­fer­ences among dif­fer­ent an­i­mal species. In the fox, for ex­am­ple, it may cause se­ri­ous dis­ease and death,” Wang said.

Since mam­mals and birds can be hosts of par­a­sites that lead to tox­o­plasma, it is un­clear when and where Jinyi might have be­come in­fected.

In Fe­bru­ary, when the news of Jinyi’s death came out, people who vis­ited the zoo com­plained that the liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment of the gi­ant pan­das was foul, with un­pleas­ant odors and vis­i­ble an­i­mal waste that was not re­moved promptly.

But Wang said there is no di­rect re­la­tion­ship be­tween the pan­das’ liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment and the in­fec­tion.

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