Scientists unravel mystery behind disease that is killing bald eagles2021|01:44
Scientists have discovered the cause of a mysterious illness that turns bald eagles into zombies before they die, according to a paper published in the journal Science.In 1994, dozens of bald eagles died in Arkansas. The eagles displayed signs of neurological impairment. Necropsies found these birds had distinct lesions and holes that made their brains look like sponges, as if they had been eaten from the inside.Eventually, it was determined that these bald eagles were suffering from a condition known as avian vacuolar myelinopathy, or AVM. Lab analysis showed that the eagles' prey had ingested large amounts of the invasive plant Hydrilla verticillata, also known as water-thyme.By 2014 researchers at the University of Georgia had shown that a species of cyanobacteria that grows on the plant was responsible for AVM. They named the bacteria Aetokthonos hydrillicola. However, when researchers fed eagles lab-grown A. hydrillicola, the eagles did not get sick.Now, in a new study published in the journal Science, scientists at the University of Georgia, Germany and the Czech Republic have identified the source of the neurotoxin. The bacteria only produce it when they come into contact with bromide.