Infectious-Diseases

Group Facilitators: Penny Langhammer and Reid Harris

Group Members: Matt Becker, Molly Bletz, Jesse Brunner, Evan Brus, Patricia Burrowes, Alessandro Catenazzi, Jim Collins, Mat Fisher, Jake Kerby, An Martel, Nicholas Massimo, Frank Pasmans, Angela Picco, Alan Pressier, Falitiana Rabemananjara, Tsanta Rakotonanahary, Lee Skerratt, Jenny Urbina, Vance Vredenburg, Doug Woodhams

ASG Secretariat Lead Contact: Phil Bishop (pbishop[at]amphibians.org)

Current Priority Actions

The following are immediate priorities identified by the Infectious Diseases Working Group. These actions are expected to change as progress is made in addressing the issues.

Major Constraints To Effective ConservationMid-term Priorities (1–5 years)Short-term Targets (6–12 months)
SCIENCE
Critical gaps and needs in basic knowledge, such as:

- Knowledge of worldwide diversity and distribution of amphibian pathogens

- Developing baseline population data and monitoring methods to identify infection-related population declines

- Preventing pathogen spread to naive populations

- Biological determinants underpinning variation in pathogen lineages associated with amphibian population decline/extinction

- Transmission processes of main disease threats across spatial scales and via non-amphibian vectors, and persistence of pathogens in the environment

- Factors (e.g. genetic, immunological) that distinguish amphibian species, populations and individuals that resist or tolerate infections

- Interaction of infections with contaminants, climate, other stressors

- Variation in susceptibility across life stages

- Ecosystem impacts of amphibian declines and extirpations resulting from infectious disease

- Effect of temperature variation (human and natural) on pathogen-host dynamics

- Role of trade in spread of Bd/Bsal in US and internationally
Update research priorities annually (target=graduate students, post-docs)Report on research priorities in ASA-AmphibiaWeb Science Zone, disseminate on social media, and highlight in FrogLog
Develop fund for grants to high caliber doctoral students filling critical research gaps (model=NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants) i. Identify potential donors for a fund

ii. Develop concept note for doctoral grants fund
i. Coordinate volunteer effort by the professional community (academic, government, commercial entities) to sample salamanders, frogs, and caecilians for emerging threats (Bsal and emerging viruses such as BNV) in nature and in trade

ii. Coordinate strain typing and mapping of the distribution of strains of RV and Bsal as has been done for Bd
i. Invite and publish articles by Bsal and BNV researchers on the urgency of a global sampling effort with specific recommendations

ii. Support academic partners (e.g. Imperial College London and others) to develop a website like http://www.bd-maps.net for Bsal and ranavirus and promote it using ASA communications channels including ASA-AmphibiaWeb Science Zone
i. Conduct surveys of infectious disease prevalence in areas not surveyed or thought to be negative for Bd, Bsal and ranavirus

ii. Encourage development of a cheaper alternative to the qPCR detection method

iii. Develop policy statement to encourage local authorities to expedite permits for collecting samples for PCR analysis
i. Identify priority areas and species for surveys of infectious disease prevalence

ii. Facilitate collaborations between researchers, local and international universities, protected area managers and other Alliance members to undertake disease and population monitoring in priority areas (e.g. Madagascar’s Chytrid Emergency Cell).

iii. Support a citizen science project that encourages pet owners to swab their pet amphibians for Bsal

iv. Identify labs that analyze swabs for Bd/Bsal
i. Conduct surveys of amphibian defenses (e.g. mucosome assays, resistant alleles) in areas not surveyed or thought to be negative for Bd/Bsal and assess susceptibility of priority species

ii. Coordinate comparative studies of species/population susceptibility (tolerance/resistance) in key species in particular regions using common experimental design
i. Convene experts to identify priority areas and species for surveys of amphibian defenses

ii. Facilitate collaborations between researchers, protected area managers, zoos and other captive breeding facilities, and other Alliance members to undertake disease and population monitoring in priority areas

iii. Conduct Bsal susceptibility experiments on priority species that represent a wide taxonomic range to determine the extent of the threat
CONSERVATION
Limited evidence for conservation practitioners on effective mitigation measures, including:

- Probiotics

- Chemotherapeutics

- Vaccinations

- Micropredators

- Artificial selection

- Head-starting/reintroduction

- Habitat modification

- Managed relocation to new habitats as in NZ

- Other tools to help limit pathogen spread
i. Trial probiotics with additional species, life stages and ecosystems with the aim of finding effective probiotics that persist on host species

ii. Encourage collaborations between natural park personnel and scientists in order to promote mesocosm-type studies to evaluate the potential impact of mitigation strategies with native species in their own environment
i. Identify high-priority candidate species for probiotic trials from ecosystems not yet represented in probiotics research

ii. Support local graduate students and protected area managers to implement trials
Support targeted reintroductions of surplus captive amphibians within an experimental frameworki. Convene an expert working group/workshop to identify barriers to the reintroduction of surplus captive amphibians and make recommendations . Include partners such as AArk and Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

ii. Co-author a policy piece for a high profile journal with the recommendations from this working group
Evaluate efficacy of other disease mitigation measures such as vaccination, micropredators, habitat modification and artificial selectionConvene a meeting over Skype with experts to explore the state of the art and encourage additional brainstorming and collaboration. Encourage research with an ASA seed grant category for this topic.
Facilitate integration and data sharing by academics, NGOs, government agencies, wildlife managers to encourage consistent and better application of successful methods to mitigate impact of diseaseConsider a web-based interactive solution hosted by amphibians.org or an appropriate partner with relevant tabs such as Bd/Bsal maps, funding opportunities, mitigation research updates and project plans for brainstorming by the larger group
A large number of species on the brink of extinctionPrioritize field interventions using data on ongoing declines and extinction risk (including amphibian defenses) Undertake the identification of Important Amphibian Areas globally, starting in regions of ongoing decline, and ensure that information on threats from infectious disease is incorporated into the documentation
Support rescue pods for species with no other optionsFacilitate input of disease experts into the existing priority-setting processes of AArk, AZA and other institutions involved in amphibian rescues
Develop an emergency fund for highly threatened species where no other funding existsi. Identify potential donors

ii. Develop concept note for highly threatened species fund
Convene meeting to brainstorm outside the box conservation strategies Design meeting, identify participants, secure resources
Raise public awareness about amphibian diseasesi. Expand and strengthen social media campaigns to reach a broader audience

ii. Engage education graduate students to develop curriculum module at various grade levels
POLICY
Lack of appropriate policies (mostly at a national or regional level), or insufficient policy implementation (mostly at an international level), to reduce threats to amphibians from infectious disease i. Establish guidelines for screening and interpreting results for amphibian pathogens in trade, ranaculture, and other important settings.

ii. Encourage regulatory officials to establish a testing program for amphibian pathogens.

iii. Promote development of a multi-pathogen screening tool.

iv. Explore efficient, effective quarantine options as part of a clean trade program
Immediate priority -- Work with ASA partners to convince regulatory authorities of relevant countries (e.g. USFWS) to implement a moratorium on importation of salamanders until a testing program for Bsal is in place
Encourage grassroots testing, treatment and disease risk minimization measures for the pet, food, bait, and science uses of amphibiansWork with Associations and major importers and stores in the US to encourage testing, treatment, and disease risk minimization (e.g., Petco, Petsmart, AZA, and AARK)
Evaluate potential threats of disease spread into novel environments via ecotourism and communicate data to government agencies to educate the public and promote appropriate regulations

ACAP related chapters

Infectious Diseases (P. Daszak, K. Lips, R. Alford, C. Carey, J.P. Collins, A. Cunningham, R. Harris and S. Ron).

Read the whole ACAP here.