Killer fungus causes frog population to croak

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

fungi
The killer Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis fungus.

Over 80% of the sharp-snouted frogs in the world died in the 10 years leading up to 2004, earning them a top spot on the critically endangered species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. What caused such a widespread sickness? The deadly chyrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is the guilty killer. It’s also responsible for taking a bite out of the Panamanian golden frog and gastric brooding frog populations for over 40 years!

“There’s been a big question in terms of why the amphibian immune system hasn’t been able to respond to this nasty skin infection,” says Louise Smith-Rollins, an associate professor of pathology, microbiology, and immunology at Vanderbilt.

Apparently, the fungus can trick the body’s defenses into not only destroying themselves (rather than the infection), but also prevent them from calling for help. Smith-Rollins explains, “It appears that the defect is that the fungus itself is able to release factors that target vulnerable lymphocytes and induce them to commit suicide. Mediators that should be regulating and calling in the troops, they’re stopped right there.”

Featured image courtesy of Brian Gratwicke on Wikipedia.