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Study Finds Virus Likely Cause Of Sea Star Wasting

Elizabeth Cherny-Chipman
AP Photo/Oregon State University
This May 16, 2014 file photo provided by Oregon State University shows an ochre sea star on the Oregon coast with one leg disintegrating from star wasting syndrome.

Scientists have isolated a virus they are pretty sure is causing the mysterious disease that has killed millions of sea stars on the Pacific Coast by melting them into slime and piles of tiny bones.

The study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says a variety of densovirus is the likely cause of sea star wasting syndrome.

Cornell University marine microbiologist Ian Hewson says tests showed increasing amounts of the virus in sea stars as the disease progressed. And injecting material from sick sea stars that was filtered to include virus-sized organisms caused healthy sea stars to get the disease.

Hewson adds they don't know yet what triggered the outbreak of the virus, which has been in the marine environment at least since 1942.


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