Killer fungus threatening amphibians

November 23, 2009
This is a giant African bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus). Credit: Matthew Fisher

Amphibians like frogs and toads have existed for 360 million years and survived when the dinosaurs didn't, but a new aquatic fungus is threatening to make many of them extinct, according to an article in the November issue of Microbiology Today.

The , Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), was found to be associated with waves of amphibian extinctions in Central America and north-eastern Australia in the 1990's. Bd infects over 350 amphibian species by penetrating their skin, but little else is known about where it came from and how it causes disease.

The earliest published record of Bd is from a specimen of an African clawed frog in 1938 from South Africa. Around this time there was a huge trade in clawed when they were used in one of the earliest human pregnancy tests. The global exportation of the clawed frog is likely to have spread Bd around the world. The infection is spread by fungal spores released into the water supply from imported infected animals.

Researchers are trying different approaches to treat existing Bd infection. Some are treating tadpoles with antifungal drugs, whilst more innovative approaches involve introducing 'probiotic' bacteria that naturally secrete antifungal compounds which kill Bd on amphibians' skin. To help limit the spread of , the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) now recommends screening imported amphibians for presence of Bd.

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: Deadly frog disease is linked to climate change in Europe, say researchers

Related Stories

Amphibians may develop immunity to fatal fungus

April 1, 2009

Amphibian populations are declining worldwide, principally because of the spread of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis. Researchers know that some amphibian populations and species are innately more susceptible to the disease ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals new clues about how humans become tool users

October 7, 2015

New research from the University of Georgia department of psychology gives researchers a unique glimpse at how humans develop an ability to use tools in childhood while nonhuman primates—such as capuchin monkeys and chimpanzees—remain ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.