The last croak for native frogs?
Friday 16 September 2005
Deadly amphibian disease found in British Isles
Scientists from Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have discovered a deadly amphibian disease is present across a previously unsuspected wide range through Europe. The disease, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is a chytrid fungus* which grows on keratin contained in the skin of the animals. It has caused massive declines in amphibian populations around the world and has now been detected in the British Isles. The team led by Dr Mat Fisher (Imperial College London), believe the disease is spreading rapidly and is known to have driven at least one species, the Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes), to extinction.
Dr. Trent Garner (ZSL) and others, report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that of 1,664 amphibians tested using a highly sensitive molecular method, 20 out of 28 species from five European countries were infected.
“This is a disturbing discovery as previously the disease was thought to have gained a toe-hold in Europe only within isolated populations from Spain and Italy. Worryingly, the chytrid has now been found in the British Isles.” Commented Dr Andrew Cunningham, head of wildlife epidemiology, ZSL.
The chytrid fungus is reported by Dr. Andrew Cunningham (ZSL) and others in The Veterinary Record to have been found infecting a colony of escaped American Bullfrogs in the south east of England. English Nature has, it seems, successfully eradicated the invading, and infected, bullfrog colony, removing more than 11,000 animals from the site of introduction. However, it is possible that the chytrid fungus has now infected native British amphibians and tests are being carried out to discover if the disease has become established in the UK.
* Chytrid fungus can infect most amphibians. It is a skin disease, and as amphibians use their skin to regulate water and oxygen intake, chytrid fungus threatens their survival. Infected animals are fine as tadpoles, but once they undergo metamorphosis and hop out of the pond, they die.
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Notes to editors
- Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL owns and operates London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research at the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 40 countries worldwide. www.zsl.org
- ZSL’s Institute of Zoology has been looking into the problem of wildlife disease for over 15 years and issued a report looking at the problem in June 2005. Copies of the report are available from firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Institute of Zoology (IoZ) is the research division of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). It is a government-funded research institute specialising in scientific issues relevant to the conservation of animal species and their habitats.
- About Imperial College London - Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students 10,000) and staff (5,000) of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture. Website:www.imperial.ac.uk
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