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Occurrence of a Pathogenic Fungus in Captive Arizona Amphibians

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Amphibians have been experiencing a worldwide decline that is in part caused by an infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, specific to frogs and salamanders. Globally many species have declined or gone extinct because of the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also known as

Amphibians have been experiencing a worldwide decline that is in part caused by an infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, specific to frogs and salamanders. Globally many species have declined or gone extinct because of the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also known as the amphibian chytrid or Bd. By the time Bd was discovered it was too late to stop the spread and it has now been found on almost every continent. The trade of captive amphibians, used as pets, bait, and educational animals provides an opportunity to spread Bd. Because some amphibians can carry Bd without experiencing symptoms, it is possible for even healthy looking amphibians to spread the amphibian chytrid if they are moved from one location to another. Recently, a new species Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) was found on salamanders. Bsal was identified before it reached the United States, prompting concern regarding its spread and a call for regulation regarding the trade of captive amphibians. There are some regulations in place controlling the trade of amphibians, but they are insufficient to stop the spread of amphibian chytrid in captive populations. A 2016 law prohibits the importation of 201 salamander species. However, there is no central organization to sample or certify if amphibians are free from Bd or Bsal. Although some stores say they test for these pathogens the tests are unregulated and not reported to any central body. If the captive amphibian trade is to go disease free, there would need to be a significant push to coordinate testing efforts. To estimate Bd's prevalence in Arizona captive amphibian populations, I contacted pet stores, bait stores, and sanctuary or educational organizations to ask if I could sample their amphibian collections. My research built on the 2008 work of Angela Picco, who sampled for the amphibian chytrid in Arizona bait shops. I found that amphibian owners were often hesitant and unwilling to participate in this research opportunity. There are multiple reasons for this hesitancy including a fear of increased regulation, the potential for reporting to a government agency (USDA), or the eventual cessation of amphibian trade. The lack of willing participants suggests there may be difficulties in coordinating future sampling efforts for Bd and Bsal.

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Date Created
2018-05

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Protecting amphibians from a deadly Chytrid Fungus using a novel technology

Description

Infectious disease in wild animals has historically been a challenge that is difficult to overcome, primarily because isolating a disease outbreak to prevent further transmission in these types of populations is nearly impossible. Wild animals are free to roam, and

Infectious disease in wild animals has historically been a challenge that is difficult to overcome, primarily because isolating a disease outbreak to prevent further transmission in these types of populations is nearly impossible. Wild animals are free to roam, and humans often have limited means of tracking infection in populations. Vaccines and treatments can be formulated but are often somewhat impractical for wild populations because it is not feasible to vaccinate or treat every member in a susceptible community. One such pathogen, Batrochochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is infecting amphibian populations around the world to the point where many species are already extinct. Even though finding an effective preventative for the fungal pathogen may not mean that I am able to reach every member in a population, it may mean the difference between extinction and eventual release back into the wild for threatened populations.
In this study I hoped to create an attenuated version of Batrochochytrium dendrobatidis, by using a novel laser technology: SEPHODIS. This laser technology disrupts hydrogen bonds between proteins in the lumen of the cell while simultaneously preserving the membrane and associated proteins on the outside of the cell. This process ultimately affects the pathogenicity of the target but leaves identity markers intact so that the host immune system may recognize the pathogen and create antibodies against it. The laser was ultimately effective at killing Bd fungal cells, and I did observe a significant change in the appearance of the cells. However, samples obtained after exposure to the laser were contaminated and more research is needed to determine if SEPHODIS could be a feasible method for vaccine production.

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2019-05

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A Tale of Two Canyons: Abiotic factors and the distribution of a pathogenic fungus in southeastern Arizona

Description

Chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has played a significant role in global amphibian declines. Researchers studying Bd aim to gain a better understanding of how this pathogen survives in unique microhabitats to

Chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has played a significant role in global amphibian declines. Researchers studying Bd aim to gain a better understanding of how this pathogen survives in unique microhabitats to promote persistence of amphibians in their natural habitat. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has worked for the last 12 years to recover populations of Chiricahua Leopard Frogs to ensure the species survives in the Huachuca Mountains in southeastern Arizona. During this time, the department tested for Bd throughout their release sites. As a result of large differences in prevalence noted in prior sampling for Bd in Miller and Ramsey canyons, I investigated abiotic factors that could explain these differences. I analyzed water samples from two canyons in the Huachuca Mountains and used nutrient analysis and filter extraction to test for differences in abiotic factors between these two sites that could affect Bd transmission. Results show that Ramsey Canyon was a positive site for Bd, while Miller Canyon remained negative. Results from water temperature estimates as well as a test for 30 elements revealed possible reasons for differences in Bd transmission between the two canyons.

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2017-05

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Phenotypic Plasticity and Early Life Cycle Development of the Chytrid Fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

Description

The amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has captured human attention because it is a pathogen that has contributed to global amphibian declines. Despite increased research, much is still unknown about how it develops. For example, the fact that Bd

The amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has captured human attention because it is a pathogen that has contributed to global amphibian declines. Despite increased research, much is still unknown about how it develops. For example, the fact that Bd exhibits phenotypic plasticity during development was only recently identified. In this thesis, the causes of phenotypic plasticity in Bd are tested by exposing the fungus to different substrates, including powdered frog skin and keratin, which seems to play an important role in the fungus's colonization of amphibian epidermis. A novel swelling structure emerging from Bd germlings developed when exposed to keratin and frog skin. This swelling has not been observed in Bd grown in laboratory cultures before, and it is possible that it is analogous to the germ tube Bd develops in vivo. Growth of the swelling suggests that keratin plays a role in the phenotypic plasticity expressed by Bd.

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Date Created
2016-05

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Analysis of Global Variance of the Thermal Maxima of an Amphibian Pathogen

Description

Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the amphibian chytrid fungus causing chytridiomycosis, is the cause of massive amphibian die-offs. As with any host-pathogen relationship, it is paramount to understand the growth and reproduction of the pathogen that causes an infectious disease outbreak. The

Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the amphibian chytrid fungus causing chytridiomycosis, is the cause of massive amphibian die-offs. As with any host-pathogen relationship, it is paramount to understand the growth and reproduction of the pathogen that causes an infectious disease outbreak. The life-cycle of the pathogen, Bd, is strongly influenced by temperature; however, previous research has focused on Bd isolated from limited geographic ranges, and may not be representative of Bd on a global scale. My research examines the relationship between Bd and temperature on the global level to determine the actual thermal maximum of Bd. Six isolates of Bd, from three continents, were incubated at a temperature within the thermal range (21°C) and a temperature higher than the optimal thermal range (27°C). Temperature affected the growth and zoosporangium size of all six isolates of Bd. All six isolates had proliferative growth at 21°C, but at 27°C the amount and quality of growth varied per isolate. My results demonstrate that each Bd isolate has a different response to temperature, and the thermal maximum for growth varies with each isolate. Further understanding of the difference in isolate response to temperature can lead to a better understanding of Bd pathogen dynamics, as well as allow us the ability to identify susceptible hosts and environments before an outbreak.

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Date Created
2016-12