Research published details the first-ever successful elimination of a fatal chytrid fungus in a wild amphibian, marking a major breakthrough in the fight against the disease responsible for devastating amphibian populations worldwide. The highly-infectious chytrid pathogen has severely affected over 700 amphibian species worldwide; driving population declines, extirpations and species extinctions across five continents.
Results from the seven-year study show the first evidence of eradicating the chytrid pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) affecting amphibians in situ. Published in Biology Letters, the paper details the outcome of a project led by scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the National Museum of Natural History in Spain (MNCN-CSIC), and Imperial College London.
The study combined antifungal treatment of Mallorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis) tadpoles with environmental disinfection. By using an antifungal to treat tadpoles and a common laboratory decontaminant to sterilise the environment, researchers were able to clear infection from populations of the toad over the research period.
Co-author Dr Trenton Garner, Reader within ZSL's Institute of Zoology, said: "This study represents a major breakthrough in the fight against this highly-destructive pathogen; for the first time we have managed to rid wild individuals of infection for a continued period.
"Amphibian-associated chytrid fungi are a critical conservation issue that requires simple, straightforward and transferrable solutions. Our study is a significant step towards providing these."
Dr Jaime Bosch, Senior Researcher at MNCN-CSIC, added: "This is the first time that chytrid has ever been successfully eliminated from a wild population -- a real positive which we can take forward into further research to tackle this deadly disease. Chytrid is a global issue which affects amphibian populations worldwide, and I am proud to be part of a team of leading institutions at the forefront of this pioneering research working towards a solution."
Chytrid fungal infections causing amphibian mass mortality were first identified at the end of the 20th century by a consortium of scientists, including ZSL researchers.
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