The pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is the cause of the decline and disappearance of hundreds of amphibian species worldwide, and Chytridiomycosis has been recognized by the IUCN as “the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates in terms of the number of species impacted, and it’s propensity to drive them to extinction.” So much so that, since it was discovered, many investigative groups worldwide have dedicated their efforts towards learning more about this threat, hoping to find ways to protect amphibians.
Among other things, it is very important to understand the persistence of the pathogen in communities and what species are the main transmitters. Finding this information is not easy, but, luckily, we have a new mathematical approach to quantify, within the amphibian community, the capacity of each host to maintain the pathogen and to identify the “key hosts” for its propagation.
This new approach has recently been published in The American Naturalist by Dr. Andy Fenton, from the University of Liverpool, who will be the Principal Investigator of the new project. The new approach will allow the quantification of the contribution of each species to persistence of the pathogen, and the classification of the natural systems within a conceptual framework. Although many parasites, like the amphibian fungus, affect multiple species, the persistence of a parasite is usually determined by only one species, but there are other parasites which require multiple hosts to persist. Thus, obtaining this information can help us design disease mitigation strategies based on the control of hosts.
Additionally, participating in this project will be our director, Dr. Jaime Bosch of the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC), Dr. Trenton Garner of the Zoological Society of London, Dr. Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge, and Dr. Dave Daversa from the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. With this strong team, made up of specialists in various relevant areas of study, the project promises to shed light upon the most relevant aspects of the disease that we hope will have positive implications in mitigating the epidemic in Peñalara and other places on Earth.
Translated by Nate Stein.