Emerging Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are considered one of the leading threats to amphibians around the world, causing population declines and extinctions even in relatively pristine areas. Chytridiomycosis is an emerging infectious disease caused by two fungal pathogens Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and B. salamandrivorans (Bsal). Bd has been devastating amphibian populations since the 1970s, and Bsal has emerged recently causing significant population declines in Europe and poses an immense threat to North American salamander diversity. Other disease threats include Ranavirus (Rv), water molds, such as Saprolegnia and Perkinsea infections. These diseases can interact with other threats to amphibians, including habitat loss, climate change and pollution and exacerbate amphibian loss. Conservation managers, researchers and policy makers are coming together to address these threats and find ways to effectively mitigate amphibian disease threats locally and globally.

What are we doing at the Amphibian Survival Alliance?

  • ASA is working actively to support and promote conservation initiatives and management focused research that aims to tackle and provide mechanisms to minimize the impact of these devastating diseases. 
  • ASA funds research into disease mitigation, including research into finding effective locally-occurring probiotics for fighting Bd and Bsal 
  • ASA provides seed grants to support research and conservation projects
  • ASA is highlighting the impacts of amphibian disease and potential intervention strategies through messaging about current research advances and conservation  successes on social media and other channels
  • ASA engages with Disease Work Groups around the globe: Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Disease Task Team, North American Bsal Task Team, Amphibian Specialist Group – Infectious Disease Working Group (ACAP)

How can you help?

In the US and Canada, if you find a dieoff of amphibians or if you find an amphibian that looks like it has a disease, you can use the Herpetofaunal Disease Alert System (HDAS). To submit a possible case of amphibian (or reptile) disease, simply send an email to: herp_disease_alert@parcplace.org , with the information below.

Include in your email:

    1. Your name and e-mail address (for any follow-up questions)
    2. Date of observation
    3. What you saw
    4. Where it was
    5. What types of animals were involved (species [if you are sure of the identification], life stage [eggs, larvae, subadults, adults])
    6. Is it ongoing (only dead or decayed animals, some sick-looking animals that are alive?)
    7. Any photos or other relevant information

The Federal, State or Provincial contacts for herpetofaunal diseases will be alerted, and they may contact you further for additional information. Following the report, the managing agency will make a decision on whether or not a follow-up action is needed. This system will help us to facilitate early detection and rapid response actions, where possible. It will also aid our understanding of the scope and severity of emerging infectious diseases. Thank you in advance for your help to keep our herps healthy!

[Reference:  http://parcplace.org/resources/parc-disease-task-team/]

In Europe, there is an alert system for the deadly salamander eating fungus,  Bsal.  Visit  http://bsaleurope.com/report-cases/ to find country by country contact information to report sick or dead amphibians.

Photo © Eric Isselee

Click the links below to learn more about emerging infectious diseases in amphibians:

Photo © Molly Bletz