Light pollution can prolong the risk of sparrows passing along West Nile virus | Science News


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Light pollution can prolong the risk of sparrows passing along West Nile virus

Under nighttime lighting, birds take longer to fight off virus attack

9:00am, January 19, 2018

ABOUT THAT LIGHT Another reason for caution in lighting up the night comes from a study of house sparrow difficulties in fighting off West Nile virus, which mosquitoes biting the birds can then spread to people.

SAN FRANCISCO — Even moderate light pollution can roughly double the time a house sparrow remains a risk for passing along the worrisome West Nile virus.

House sparrows, about as widespread across the United States as artificial lighting itself, make a useful test species for a first-of-its-kind study of how night illumination might contribute to disease spread, said Meredith Kernbach, an eco-immunologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Passer domesticus brought into the lab and kept dimly illuminated at night were slower in fighting off West Nile infections than lab sparrows allowed full darkness, Kernbach reported January 7 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Sparrows kept under a dim night light typically had enough virus in their bloodstreams for at least four days to turn biting mosquitoes into

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