They came from above

They came from above All photos by Brendan Borrell Opportunistic infections seem to pop up out of nowhere, but new strains are appearing in new places, striking otherwise healthy animals - including humans. A few microbiologists go hunting. By Brendan Borrell n the spring of 2000, veterinarian Craig Stephen walked up to the biology department at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo for what he thought would be a routine autopsy of a dead

Brendan Borrell
Dec 1, 2008

They came from above

All photos by Brendan Borrell

Opportunistic infections seem to pop up out of nowhere, but new strains are appearing in new places, striking otherwise healthy animals - including humans. A few microbiologists go hunting.

By Brendan Borrell

n the spring of 2000, veterinarian Craig Stephen walked up to the biology department at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo for what he thought would be a routine autopsy of a dead porpoise. "In my experience of doing stranded marine mammals, the vast majority of them, you don't get anything," says Stephen, who runs the university's Center for Coastal Health, "They've died, they've sunk, they've started to rot, they float back up, they get on the beach and then somebody finds them."

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Karen Bartlett holds up a petri dish dotted with Cryptococcus gattii colonies.

All photos by Brendan Borrell

Biologists now recognize that this dogma is...

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7. S.E. Kidd et al., "A rare genotype of Cryptococcus gattii caused the cryptococcosis outbreak on Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada)," Proc Natl Acad Sci, 101:17258-63, 2004.