Progress on Understanding Pathology of Deadly Amphibian Fungus

The fungal infection that killed a record number of amphibians worldwide leads to deadly dehydration in frogs in the wild, according to results of a new study. High levels of an aquatic, chytrid fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) disrupt fluid and electrolyte balance in wild frogs, the scientists say, severely depleting the frogs' sodium and potassium levels and causing cardiac arrest and death. Their findings confirm what researchers have seen in carefully controlled lab experiments with the fungus, but San Francisco State University biologist Dr. Vance Vredenburg said the data from wild frogs provides a much better idea of how the disease progresses. "The mode of death discovered in the lab seems to be what's actually happening in the field," he said, "and it's that understanding that is key to doing something about it in the future." Results of the study were published online on April 25, 2012 in the journal PLoS ONE. "Wildlife diseases can be just as devastating to our health and economy as agricultural and human diseases," said Sam Scheiner, NSF program officer for the joint National Science Foundation-National Institutes of Health Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program, which funded the research. "Bd has been decimating frog and salamander species worldwide, which may fundamentally disrupt natural systems," said Scheiner. "This study is an important advance in our understanding of the disease--a first step in finding a way to reduce its effects." At the heart of the new study are blood samples drawn from mountain yellow-legged frogs by Dr. Vredenburg and colleagues in 2004, as the chytrid epidemic swept through California's Sierra Nevada mountains.
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