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Scientists find ‘ground zero’ of deadly frog pandemic

In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists have confirmed the originating point of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) that has caused around 200 species of frogs to be severely decreased , sometimes to the point of extinction. This fungus, which colonize frogs’ skin, impairs their bodies’ natural ability of absorption of water and electrolytes, causing death and devastation to entire population of frogs. The first reg flags went up when entire species of frogs started disappearing in Australia, central and south America in the 1970s, spreading to North America and Caribbean islands by the 1980s and finally Europe in the 1990s. While the origin of this deadly fungus was unknown for a long time, scientists hypothesized that this chytrid fungus might have traveled to America from African through the trade of African Clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis), but this hypothesis is refuted now, while pointing to East Asia, especially Korea. as the site of genesis. Trade of animals as pets or for laboratory use helps moves the fungus into new regions of the world, infecting fresh colonies of the amphibian while causing outbreak of the disease in the area. A similar fungus, B salamandrivorans (Bsal) is affrcting salamanders in Europe. While some frog species have been observed having the ability to resist Bd by changing the microbiomes of their skin, researchers agree that the best possible way to stop the disease is to stop it from spreading, and thus protect entire species of frogs and salamanders from chytrid pandemics.

— As reported by Mongabay 


cover photo: The African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) is an aquatic frog species popular in research. For decades it was also used to test for human pregnancy. Female frogs would be injected with urine from a woman – if there were pregnancy hormones present in the urine, the frog would respond by laying eggs. Photo by H. Krisp via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)


 

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