Friday, 27 September 2019

Scientists track frog-killing fungus to help curb its spread



Frog skin swabs reveal when and where the deadly disease has popped up in wildlife populations around the world
Date:  September 23, 2019
Source:  University of California - Berkeley
From habitat loss to climate change, amphibians around the world face immense threats to their survival. One emerging and sinister threat is the chytrid fungus, a mysterious pathogen that kills amphibians by disrupting the delicate moisture balance maintained by their skin, and that is decimating frog populations around the world.
"Amphibians are already one of the most imperiled groups on the planet, and this fungal disease is further threatening their biodiversity," said Erica Bree Rosenblum, an associate professor of environmental science, policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley.
With the help of advanced genetic testing and hundreds of frog skin swabs, Rosenblum, along with UC Berkeley graduate student Allison Byrne and an international team of collaborators, has created the most complete map to date of when and where different genetic variants of the fungus -- analogous to different strains of viruses like the flu -- have infected frog populations around the world.
Some of these genetic variants are deadlier than others, so knowing their current geographic distribution is key to preventing future spread of the disease, the researchers said. The investigation also uncovered a whole new genetic lineage of the fungus, one that appears to have originated in Asia and may be the oldest variant yet discovered.
"An invisible aspect of globalization is that when we move plants and animals around, we are moving their diseases around, and that can have really devastating consequences," Rosenblum said. "If we know what lineages are where, we can better predict conservation outcomes, because some of these lineages are really deadly, and others less so."
The study appears online the week of Sept. 23 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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