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What is Chytridiomycosis?

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  • Written By: K. K. Lowen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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Chytridiomycosis is the name of a deadly and infectious disease that affects amphibians. It has been linked to the fungus batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Although some amphibians are not susceptible to the illness, the ailment has greatly affected some populations and has eradicating some. Chytridiomycosis is present in nearly all areas where amphibians reside, but the Americas and Australia have seen the largest mortality rates.

Humans first identified in Queensland, Australia in the early 1990s when frogs began dying in great numbers, but it remains unclear when the disease first appeared. It is also unknown whether chytridiomycosis emerged as a new disease or was dormant in the frog population and prompted into activity by unknown natural circumstances. Another possibility is that humans overlooked a disease that has existed for a significant amount of time.

Many circumstances may have contributed to the spread of chytridiomycosis. People have spread the disease inadvertently through the global market for amphibians intended for human consumption. Humans also may have relocated infected amphibians in produce shipments. Environmental factors play a role as well. For example, animals may migrate to other regions if the temperature in their habitats becomes too warm or too cold.

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Scientists have discovered a number of symptoms displayed by infected amphibians. Many of the symptoms relate to the skin and include discoloration, shedding, and deterioration. Other physical symptoms may include convulsions, forms of internal bleeding, slowed reflexes, and a general decrease in function. Additionally, modifications to behavioral patterns may occur. For example, the animal may become lethargic and sluggish, which may lead to lack of food and proper shelter.

The severity of the infection plays a pivotal role in the mortality of an amphibian suffering from chytridiomycosis. As the amount of fungus rises, death becomes more probable because an increased level of fungus causes more skin damage. The strain caused by the shedding of skin can result in cardiac arrest because an amphibian’s skin is important for respiration, hydration, and other necessary functions. No cure for the disease exists, and most of the treatments attempted by researchers have no practical application in the wild.

Chytridiomycosis appears to affect some types of amphibians more than others. Frogs seem to be more susceptible to the disease than other amphibians, but frog habitats may be the true reason for their high infection and mortality rates. Amphibians that live and breed in water at high elevations also appear to be more vulnerable than other animals.

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