A new threat: the salamander killer fungus

triton chinoBatrachochytrium salamandrivorans is a new specie of chytrid fungus described in 2013, much more lethal that the specie we knew until now, but in this case, only for salamanders and newts (urodela).  This new specie has already devastated entire populations of common salamander in Holland and Belgium and the threat of its expansion to the rest of the world is really alarming.

In a study we took part and that we published recently in the prestigious newsletter Science, we analyzed more than 5000 amphibians samples from all around the world and we did susceptibility testing in laboratories to different amphibians species. Until now, this new specie seems to be present only in Asia (specifically in Japan, Thailand and Vietnam), where it comes from, and in Holland and Belgium, where it was recently introduced. The laboratory testing showed that, as it was expected, the Asian amphibians are resistant, due to the fact that they would co-evolve with this fungus specie until they made themselves resistant. On the contrary, the European and American amphibians were very vulnerable to this new chytrid fungus specie and many of them died very fast when they came in contact with the fungus.

In all like hood, the introduction of this new pathogenic in the European continent was trough the commerce of the Asiatic amphibians. In this video you can see spectacular images of newts and salamanders and a summary of the results of this study.

salamandra lesionesRecently, a new work published in Science Newsletter analyzed the risk of this new pathogenic for newts and salamanders of USA, Canada and Mexico. Taking into account that North America gathers the biggest salamander diversity of the world, the effect of the introduction of this new fungus in the American continent would be particularly dramatic. The work manifest the necessity of preventing this catastrophe and recommends the prohibition of importing exotic salamanders and newts until a commerce control strategy that allows to detect and prevent the expansion of chytrid fungus pathogenic of amphibians is established .
In Spain there are not any mechanisms to control to the commerce of exotic animals either, like for example the infection diagnosis of the imported samples. The experience with Batrachochytrium dendrobaditis warn us of the difficulty and the great cost of trying to end with this pathogenic once the ecosystems are established and indicates us that we should bet for preventing now that it is still possible.

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