Discovery of Fungus-Infecting Virus Could End Global Amphibian Pandemic

Panamanian golden frog is nearing extinction. (Credit: Brian Gratwicke/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service).
A fungus devastating frogs and toads on nearly every continent may have an Achilles heel. Scientists have discovered a virus that infects the fungus, and that could be engineered to save the amphibians. The fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd, ravages the skin of frogs and toads, and eventually causes heart failure. To date it has contributed to the decline of over 500 amphibian species, and 90 possible extinctions including yellow-legged mountain frogs in the Sierras and the Panamanian golden frog (image). A new paper in Current Biology documents the discovery of a virus that infects Bd, and which could possibly be engineered to control the fungal disease. The open-access article is titled “An Endogenous DNA Virus in an Amphibian-Killing Fungus Associated with Pathogen Genotype and Virulence.” The UC Riverside researchers who found the virus are excited about the implications of their discovery. In addition to helping them learn about how fungal pathogens rise and spread, it offers the hope of ending what they call a global amphibian pandemic. 
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