Amphibians could develop immunity against devastating fungal disease

Jeremy Hance
April 03, 2009

The fungal disease chytridiomycosis has ravaged amphibian populations, including contributing to several extinctions. But new research may bring some hope for currently threatened amphibians.

New evidence from Jonathan Q. Richmond of the US Geological Survey shows that individual amphibians may be able to develop resistance to the disease. The study published in Bioscience suggests that further research should be done to investigate possible acquired immunity, since it may be helpful in predicting the spread of the disease and developing better ways to protect endangered amphibian populations.

To show that some amphibians can develop immunity, Richmond and colleagues point to studies indicating that two species of frogs in New Zealand showed resistance to re-infection after being infected with the fungus that causes chytridiomycosis, known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis , and then treated with the drug chloramphenicol. Another study showed that the environment where infection occurred could impact resistance: North American toads infected in dry areas survived longer when re-infected in wet conditions than toads first affected in wet conditions.

Richmond and his colleagues believe that innate immunity must be activated in order to protect the individual from the disease. Further studies of the process of activation could prove vital for saving amphibian populations across the world.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (April 03, 2009).

Amphibians could develop immunity against devastating fungal disease.