1 Tahrcountry Musings: Fungal Disease Threatens to Wipe Out Amphibians before they are discovered

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fungal Disease Threatens to Wipe Out Amphibians before they are discovered

The disease chytridiomycosis, is proving to be the nemesis of Amphibians. Chytridiomycosis caused by the chytrid fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, threatens more than 2,800 amphibian species worldwide. Amphibians infected by the disease develop skin several times thicker than normal skin, which in turn affects their ability to breathe and the transfer of electrolytes.
Details of research published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academies of Science USA makes disturbing reading. A Panamanian park has lost around 40% of its amphibian species in the past decade. Some had died out before biologists had even learned of their existence. Using latest DNA bar-coding biologists discovered 11 new species, only to find that five of them are already extinct in the area.  DNA bar-coding involves sequencing standardized DNA marker fragments to match specimens with known species. Dr Andrew Crawford from the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, was the lead scientist.
The disease is spreading fast.  Scientists are trying the use of probiotics to stall the tragedy. Frogs and salamanders have symbiotic bacteria growing on their skin, defending them against the fungus. Scientist are taking bacteria from healthy populations in the wild and culturing them in the lab. They hope to inoculate wild populations with heavy doses of their own beneficial bacteria.
Scientists also plan to preserve animals by removing some of them from their natural habitat. Animals can be cured with anti-fungal solutions, but the headache is how to introduce them back to wilderness without causing reinfections. Biologists are racing against time.

No comments: