Wild birds of several species are dying in large numbers from a paralytic disease of hitherto unknown origin in the Baltic Sea area. Last summer, a research team, led by Lennart Balk at the Department of Applied Environmental Science, at Stockholm University presented new results within this field in the well-reputed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (PNAS). The researchers demonstrated strong relationships between this disease, breeding failure, and thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency in eggs, young, and full-grown individuals.

Paralysis remedied by thiamine
Thiamine is an essential nutrient for birds and other vertebrates. Thiamine deficiency was demonstrated in the egg, liver, and brain. In addition to this, the researchers demonstrated that paralysed individuals were cured by thiamine treatment.

The excess mortality and breeding failure are part of a thiamine deficiency syndrome, which most probably has contributed significantly to declines in many bird populations during the last decades. The authors point out that even moderate thiamine deficiency results in serious effects, such as starvation, altered behaviour, immune suppression, and reproduction problems. The fact that thiamine deficiency occurs in many bird species increases the probability that other classes of animal may be affected in a similar way.

The Cozzarelli Prize for the article
The article “Wild birds of declining European species are dying from a thiamine deficiency syndrome” has now won one of the most prestigious prizes awarded by PNAS. Lennart Balk and his colleagues receive the Cozzarelli Prize 2009 for an article of exceptional scientific excellence and originality.

More information on the Cozzarelli Prize:

Link to article in PNAS:
Wild birds of declining European species are dying from a thiamine deficiency syndrome

Department of Applied Environmental Science: