Mysterious Bacterial Infection Identified as Cause of Deaths of 35 Elephants in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, the deaths of 35 elephants between August and November of 2020 puzzled investigators who suspected poisoning or poaching but quickly ruled out these causes. Now, a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications has identified the culprit in the bacterium Pasteurellaceae Bisgaard taxon 45.

Scientists analyzing 15 of the elephant carcasses were able to confirm the presence of Bisgaard taxon 45 in six of them, linking the bacterium to the unexplained deaths. This bacterium is closely related to another microbe called Pasteurella multocida, known to cause hemorrhagic septicemia in other animals. The symptoms exhibited by the elephants were consistent with fatal blood poisoning, suggesting Bisgaard taxon 45 as the likely cause of death.

It is still unclear whether the elephants were infected by an external source or if Bisgaard taxon 45 lives natively in their bodies and simply went into overdrive for unknown reasons. These findings are particularly troubling as scientists suspect that the pathogen was also responsible for 14 other elephant deaths in 2019.

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The mystery of the elephant deaths and Rian Johnson’s new series both provide captivating storytelling, one in the real world and the other in the world of entertainment. As scientists work to understand and prevent similar tragedies in the future, viewers can enjoy the intrigue and suspense of “Poker Face” as the series unfolds on the streaming platform.