Amphibian Disease Hunt Heads To Asia

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SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 17 (UPI) —  Researchers, including U.S. scientists, have completed a first survey in Asia of a fungus that has wiped out more than 200 species of amphibians worldwide.

The fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis causes a disease, chytridiomycosis, responsible for amphibian extinctions in Central, South and North America, Australia and Europe.

The new Asian survey of the fungus shows that Bd is prevalent at very low levels in the region, researchers said.

A highly diverse set of amphibian species live in Asia and potentially could be vulnerable to Bd, but very little is known about the fungus and its impact on the health of amphibians in Asia, they said.

“That’s why we’re excited about this first really big survey,” said research leader Vance Vredenburg of San Francisco State University.

“If you look at chytrid worldwide, Asia’s been the black hole in our data.”

The survey raises the question of whether Bd is either only now emerging in Asia, has been in Asia at low levels for a long time or some other factor is preventing it “from fully invading Asian amphibians,” the researchers wrote in an article in the journal PLoS One.

If Asia is on the brink of a chytrid epidemic, Vredenburg and his colleagues think it might start in the Philippines.

“The prevalence and intensity of Bd infection is much higher here than anywhere else in Asia,” he said. “Bd in the Philippines today looks similar to Bd in early outbreaks in California and South and Central America.”

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