Researchers have discovered a contagious type of cancer. The disease affects mussels, but can also be transmitted between species

Scientists have discovered a rare type of contagious mussel cancer that can spread between individuals and species.

Contagious cancer, which can be transmitted between species – Photo Pixabay

Researchers have detected a rare contagious cancer affecting mussels. The condition can be transmitted between individuals of the same species, but also from one species to another, reports The Independent.

Human intervention is to blame for introducing these cancers to new populations and susceptible species, the researchers say.

A rare contagious cancer that affects mussels and is transmitted as a parasite between individuals of the species has been discovered in seaports worldwide, a recent study says.

Cancer usually results from mutations in DNA that lead to uncontrolled growth of cells in the body, and it usually does not spread from one body to another.

But scientists have found rare infectious cancers in some animals, including facial tumors in Tasmanian devils, some cancers in dogs, and leukemia-like infections in bivalve species such as mussels and clams.

A new threat to ecology

Researchers warn that these types of infectious cancers, which can spread to several new species, are a potential threat to ecology.

Previous studies have also documented several cases of the spread of these infections between bivalves.

Human intervention could be responsible for introducing these cancers to new susceptible populations and species, the researchers say.

The contagious cancer, called MtrBTN2, affects mussels, especially those that live in the same seabed, harbors and shipping routes. Moreover, maritime traffic is the most likely explanation for the global distribution of this cancer.

The ports – epidemiological centers for the spread of contagious cancer

76 mussel populations along the coast of southern Brittany and the Vendée were studied, and the researchers found a much higher incidence of this contagious cancer in ports.

Our results showed that ports had a higher prevalence of MtrBTN2, with a hotspot observed at a ship docking dock“, stated the authors of the study.

The accumulation of micro-organisms, plants, algae or small animals such as mussels on the hulls of ships, also called biofouling, could be the basis for the greater spread of disease in seaports.

Moreover, the ports could also provide favorable conditions for the transmission of MtrBTN2, “such as high mussel density, sheltered and enclosed shorelines, or moderate temperatures“say the scientists.

The study's findings suggest that ports may serve as epidemiologic hubs, with sea routes providing artificial gateways for the spread of MtrBTN2“, they added.

The findings highlight the need for better bioflora mitigation policies to stop the spread of the disease and conserve coastal ecosystems.