Friday, 25 March 2016

Are amphibians evolving tolerance to Bd?

A new paper by Anna Savage and Kelly Zamudio suggests that amphibian populations may be evolving tolerance to Bd. This result is based on the analysis of MHC loci.

The authors write "Our findings indicate that selective pressure for Bd survival drives rapid immunogenetic adaptation in some natural populations, despite differences in environment and demography. Our field-based analysis of immunogenetic variation confirms that natural amphibian populations have the evolutionary potential to adapt to chytridiomycosis."

The paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society can be found here:

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The salamander-killing fungus is more widely distributed than previously known

A new paper in Emerging Infectious Diseases shows that the salamander-killing chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans occurs in the Netherlands (the index site where the first outbreak was observed), Belgium and also in Germany. In the wild, it infects Salamandra salamandra, Ichthyosaura alpestris and Lissotriton vulgaris.

Read the full paper here:

For more information on the fungus:

Monday, 15 February 2016

James Cook University shutting down amphibian disease research

We need your help.

**James Cook University shutting down amphibian disease research**

James Cook University plans to shut down the amphibian disease group (Dr. Lee Skerratt and Lee Berger) in the One Health Research Group, based on the argument that this topic does not fit the One Health Concept (since amphibian diseases are rarely transmitted to humans and livestock). Such argument fails to recognize the actual One Health Concept, in which biodiversity loss is intrinsically linked to human health and wellbeing.

It is our feeling that any such decision, in which a leading, very successful research group is just made redundant, may affect all groups involved in the conservation of biodiversity. We feel it is very important that as scientists, we promote research into (in this case infectious) causes of biodiversity loss, also when diseases are concerned without immediate impact on human / livestock health. We therefore decided to convey our concern to James Cook University using the letter attached.

If you would like to support the continuation of one of the most prominent amphibian disease research groups, then please send the letter (below the ### ) to

University Council, JCU
Sandra Harding, Vice Chancellor, JCU,

(Sorry for cross posting)


Dear Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding
and the University Council of James Cook University,

We heard with regret of the planned changes at the One Health Research Group of JCU, which would result in the loss of one of the most prominent research groups at a global scale involved in biodiversity loss due to infectious diseases.

Dr Lee Berger and Dr Lee Skerratt are among the world leaders in a high impact research field: amphibian declines. Whereas several institutions are now finally valuing the contribution of biodiversity to human health and wellbeing, we regret to see an opposite movement at JCU, narrowing the One Health principle to diseases affecting humans and livestock. One key component of One Health is indeed biodiversity, the loss of which indirectly affects both human and livestock health. This should not be narrowed down to diseases that are transmissible from wildlife. Several research groups have been advocating this comprehensive concept of One Health and this has been a very fruitful approach, leading to increased involvement in national and international policy and decision making.

Given the internationally supported concept of One Health and the key position represented by the research group of Drs Berger and Skerratt, we feel that abandoning this line of research would result in reputational damage for JCU through the loss of a leading role in a research field of high societal relevance.

We sincerely hope that the JCU vision will value the concept of One Health, in which currently it has a leading role, and will support the viability of the research group concerned with amphibian diseases as well as other infections of zoonotic or biodiversity concern.

Yours sincerely,

Monday, 11 January 2016

Friday, 4 December 2015

Berne Convention adopts recommendation on the prevention and control of the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans chytrid fungus

Today the Standing Committee of the Berne Convention adopted a recommendation on the prevention and control of the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans chytrid fungus. The recommendation is very important. Now it is up to the national governments to act.

Recommendation No. 176 (2015) of the Standing Committee, adopted on 4 December 2015, on the prevention and control of the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans chytrid fungus

The Standing Committee to the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, acting under the terms of Article 14 of the Convention,

Having regard to the aims of the convention, which are to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats;

Recalling that Article 3 of the convention requires Parties to take the necessary steps to promote national policies for the conservation of wild flora, wild fauna and natural habitats, with particular attention to endangered and vulnerable species, especially endemic ones, and endangered habitats; Stressing that according to the Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA), 43% of amphibian species are declining in populations, and 32% are threatened;<(br />
Noting that emerging fungal and fungal-like diseases are an increasingly important threat, causing population declines and extinctions of amphibians, the most threatened class of vertebrates;

Taking note with apprehension of the mass mortality and massive population declines (96% decline) in populations of Salamandra salamandra in the Netherlands caused by a novel chytrid fungus, the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans;

Worried about the fact that once the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans emerges in an area there is no method to mitigate its effects or to treat amphibian populations against it, making this fungal disease likely to have devastating effect on European salamander and newt biodiversity;

Noting that the disease is native of Asia and that it was introduced into Europe through the importing of exotic species mainly for pet trade purposes; Recalling that the epidemiological impact of the trade is significant and may negatively affect conservation and trade economics;

Recalling that under Article 11, paragraph 2.b of the Convention, each Contracting Party undertakes to strictly control the introduction of non-native species;

Recalling Recommendation No. 99 (2003) of the Standing Committee on the European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species (IAS);

Aware that there are bio-security risks associated to importing animals the provenance and pathogens of which may be unknown;

Recalling the CBD Technical Series No. 48 on Pets, Aquarium, and Terrarium Species: Best Practices for Addressing Risks to Biodiversity, which notes that there are significant gaps in global regulations of infectious disease and suggests risk assessment and screening approaches to potentially invasive pathogens;

Further recalling the Best Practices in Pre-Import Risk Screening for Species of Live Animals in International Trade, prepared by the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) focussing on “best practices” to address the risks associated with imports of live non-native animals and their parasites and pathogens in international trade;

Aware that pet trade may not necessarily be the only pathway of introduction of the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans in Europe;

Noting that it is extremely important that the spread of the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans is halted or at least slowed down and that the introduction into a Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans-negative region is prevented;

Stressing that the disease may spread across countries and that its effective prevention and control will necessarily require transnational cooperation and coordinated response to new outbreaks,

Recommends that Contracting Parties:

1. Apply biosafety rules to field-work (including licenses where appropriate), to visitors of breeding sites of fire salamander and newts, and to the conservation and captive collections of amphibians, against known or emerging pathogens that may be introduced – inter alia – through animal trade, and against the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans as a matter of urgency. In order to ensure the implementation of biosafety measures in all relevant conservation programmes, effective protocols for the treatment of amphibians affected by the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans should be developed and their prompt, wide and free circulation between Contracting Parties guaranteed;

2. Carry out appropriate science-based pre-import risk screening for infectious diseases of live animals in animal trade;

3. Impose immediate restrictions on salamander and newt trade while a scientific risk assessment is being developed and until necessary measures are designed, as a preventive measure against the introduction of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans through pet trade;

4. Establish monitoring programmes to control the possible further spread of the disease, with the view of developing an early warning system for pan-Europe and enable the quick detection of disease driven loss of biodiversity;

5. Establish, as a matter of urgency, monitoring programs for salamander and newt populations in areas of high risk (e.g. areas near disease outbreaks; areas with endemic species such as the Alps, the Pyrenees and islands in the Mediterranean);

6. Restrict the human induced spreading as well as the transport of amphibians where controls of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans diseases are applied in areas monitored under point 5;

7. Develop, as soon as possible, emergency action plans that will allow prompt responses should Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans approach high risk populations of salamander and newt species (e.g. endemic species in the Alps, the Pyrenees and islands in the Mediterranean);

8. Support research into the biology, epidemiology, and mitigation of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans;

9. Support research on the conservation biology of European salamander and newt, particularly to improve knowledge on the demography and population dynamics;

10. Design and implement public awareness campaigns focused on prevention, biosafety and surveillance;

11. Keep the Standing Committee informed of the measures taken to implement this recommendation.

The full text (PDF) of the recommendation can be found here: