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Until recently Madagascar was one of the few places on Earth where the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Bd) hadn’t been detected. Sadly, there is now a report of Bd being detected on amphibians in Madagascar.

This is particularly worrying because Bd can be a highly virulent pathogen that has resulted in the loss of many amphibian species from around the world. With Madagascar being home to around 400 species of amphibians, 99% of which are endemic to the island, this could mean the potential loss of hundreds of species.

The Amphibian Survival Alliance is spearheading an international response to combat the fungus and ensure a future for the frogs of Madagascar. Our strategy involves an emergency response to prepare for the lethal impacts of the disease through rescue of endangered populations, captive breeding and probiotic mitigation, coupled with a long-term response to protect and manage critical tracts of habitats and build in-country capacity.

We are simultaneously pursuing the most promising techniques for mitigating the fungus in the wild. Many frogs in Madagascar are thought to be especially at risk to Bd because of their behavior and the moist high-elevation habitats where they live, and are therefore need a bit of help to combat this fungus. Probiotic disease mitigation for wildlife is a new conservation frontier, and amphibians are at the leading edge of this novel research.

Research to identify effective probiotics for Malagasy frogs has been initiated in collaboration with the Chytrid Emergency Cell of Madagascar. In order to successfully and safely implement probiotic therapy as a conservation strategy, we stress amphibian skin microbes from the local area must be used.

Our team is working to collect skin microbe samples from across Madagascar to identify potential probiotics.  When sampling the frogs to identify effective probiotics for them, we are working towards the development of both species-specific probiotics for highly endangered frogs and community-based probiotics for frogs that live together in the same location. By sampling other members of the amphibian community, we will have a good chance of identifying candidate probiotics that exist on multiple frog species, and these can hopefully serve as community-based probiotics that can be administered to protect multiple frog species at once.

Research to identify effective probiotics for Malagasy frogs has been initiated in collaboration with the Chytrid Emergency Cell of Madagascar. In order to successfully and safely implement probiotic therapy as a conservation strategy, we stress amphibian skin microbes from the local area must be used.

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Fast Facts

Location
Madagascar

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Our Team

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Probiotic Facts
When we eat yogurt, we are protecting our body with probiotics that help fight off pathogens in our digestive tract.

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Key Species
Mantella cowani  is a species on the brink of extinction, only occupying about 10 km2 of the montane grasslands of Madagascar. The bright orange color patches on this Mantella frog tell its predators it doesn’t taste very good.

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Probiotic disease mitigation for wildlife is a new conservation frontier, and amphibians are at the leading edge of novel research in this field. We may only have one shot to save the frogs Madagascar – we owe it to them and the people of Madagascar to try. But we need your help too.

“Chytridiomycosis has the potential to devastate the beautiful and unique frogs of Madagascar. We are working very hard to develop a technique to stop the disease in its tracks by using the novel approach of skin probiotics.“ ~ Reid Harris