December 06, 2019
In the 1970s frogs around the world began to die in large numbers thanks to a fungus called chytrid. It is believed that the fungus has led to the extinction of around 90 species in this time. Researchers have been working to better understand the fungus in order to aid efforts to protect frog populations from this threat. New genetic information suggests that protecting the frogs from this threat may be more challenging than previously thought.
Researchers from University of California Berkley have been closely investigating the deadly fungus, which infects the skin of frogs. Once infected the frog finds it increasingly difficult to absorb water through their skin, and balance levels of important minerals needed for normal functioning of their heart. Once the frog has died from a heart attack the fungus releases spores into the environment which can then go on to infect other frogs in the area.
Current genetic testing can only broadly show if the fungus is present, but are unable to specify which strain is present. This distinction is important because some strains are more virulent than others. The team have now created a new genetic test that only requires a small amount of low-grade DNA to detect the strain of chytrid fungus present. This new test could help authorities detect the fungus in shipments of frogs that are farmed to be sold internationally, and thus stop the spread of the disease to new and vulnerable wild populations of frogs.
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