Killing Chytrid in Captive Amphibians

Although chytridiomycosis is responsible for amphibian population declines throughout the world and is one of the most notoriously deadly amphibian diseases, it is possible to treat captive amphibians at home or in the laboratory. Several methods of treatment are available that will completely eliminate Bd from a single amphibian’s skin. These involve general fungicides, antiseptics and antibiotics that are made into solutions for the frogs to be soaked in. Unfortunately, because these compounds are so toxic to amphibians, treating Bd using these chemicals in the wrong concentrations can kill the frogs. Because of this danger, alternative methods of eliminating Bd have been explored, such as applying skin peptides, mutualistic bacteria and heat to amphibians in order to kill Bd. Unfortunately, only mutualistic bacteria have shown much promise as a treatment thus far in other studies, and the relationship between skin bacteria and the inhibition of Bd still requires much more research. It is also important to note that with any treatment of captive frogs, not only must the frogs be treated to eliminate Bd but their cage and all of its furnishings must be thoroughly bleached and rinsed, since Bd may persist in the environment and then re-infect the frog.

On a related note, an interesting discovery was made recently that a fungicide generally applied to crops can also eliminate Bd infection on frogs. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are frequently applied in mass quantities to agricultural crops, leading to problems in the ecosystem when it enters the streams and water systems in the runoff after rainstorms. Thiophanate-methyl (TM) is one of the most commonly applied fungicides for crops, but unlike other pesticides and herbicides, it appears to help rather than hinder the growth of leopard frog tadpoles (Lithobates sphenocephalus) both with and without the presence of Bd. It is findings like this that reiterate the importance of continued research into the effects of chemicals applied to the environment by human industry, as well as continued research into the prevention of chytrid infection.

Frog: 4, Fungus: 4

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