Keep the pandemic amphibian disease, chytridiomycosis, out of the Tasmanian Wilderness WHA

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Saturday, 12 January, 2013

The amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, has spread across the globe in a devestating pandemic that has had a major impact on amphibian populations. Some species have become extinct, others have been drastically reduced in numbers, while some are minimally affected and can act as carriers.

Dr Scott Cashins and Dr Annie Phillips, both working on amphibians in Tasmania, have just released a video on YouTube asking people entering the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (WHA) not to take chytrid in with them. Obviously, this would be an unintended consequence, but Tasmanian wildlife managers fear that the chytrid fungus might be carried on boots and car tyres. Previous research had shown that amphibians in the WHA are chytrid-free and that the fungus appeared to be spread along roads from positive areas. Hence, the need to make sure these items are chytrid free prior to entry.

These hygiene procedures are also aimed to lessen the risk of two other pathogenic fungi being introduced: Phytophera which causes die-back in trees and Mucor amphibiorum, a soil fungus that causes mucormycosis. The latter fungus can infect and kills frogs and the platypus. For information on amphibian mucormycosis see http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/phtm/PHTM/frogs/mucor/mucoramphibiorum.htm

Annie Phillips on left and Scott Cashins on right (frog centre)

Two Tropical Health Solution (THS) Directors, Rick Speare and Ray Muller, have researched chytridiomycosis for decades through the One Health Group at the Anton Breinl Centre for Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University. Rick was part of the original team that identified the chytrid fungus as the cause of sudden epidemic declines in Australia and Central America (Berger et al 1998). The team was awarded a CSIRO medal for the discoverey in 2000.

THS is very interested in the practical application of the One World, One Health approach.

References

Berger L, Speare R, Daszak P, Green DE, Cunningham AA, Goggin CL, Slocombe R, Ragan MA, Hyatt AD, McDonald KR, Hines HB, Lips KR, Marantelli G, Parkes H. Chytridiomycosis causes amphibian mortality associated with population declines in the rain forests of Australia and Central America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA 1998;95: 9031-9036.

Posted 11 January 2013 by Rick Speare