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.