You may have seen the recent press coverage of a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that discusses the association of a virus with the recent outbreak of sea star wasting disease. The Seattle Aquarium is proud to have been an active collaborator in this important work and our staff veterinarian, Dr. Lesanna Lahner, is a co-author.
While coverage of the paper may present the associated densovirus as the definitive cause of SSWD, as with any scientific research, this publication represents only a first step toward understanding disease in sea stars. More studies are needed to determine the specific role, if any, of this particular virus in SSWD, including consideration of the role of environmental conditions and other potential stressors.
In the end, it's likely that the explanation for this disease event will encompass many factors. The Seattle Aquarium remains an active contributor to this research effort and others like it to understand SSWD and promote the conservation of sea stars. We’ll keep you updated as more information becomes available.