Marine mammal deaths linked to infections

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SEATTLE (AP) -- A study of dead marine mammals in the Northwest has found the animals are infected by two kinds of parasites found in cats and opossums.

The study by National Institutes of Health scientists published Tuesday found that marine mammals infected with both parasites were more likely to have a severe brain tissue inflammation and die. One parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, enters waterways through infected cat feces, while the other, sarcocystis neurona, is believed to have been introduced in the Northwest by opossums.

Senior author Michael Grigg says identifying the link between these parasites and marine mammals could inform public policy decisions, such as managing populations of feral cats and opossum or reducing run-off into coastal waters.

Researchers in Washington state and Canada contributed to the study.