Thursday, 24 November 2011

Frog-killing fungus is a skin-loving hybrid

Here is a link to an interesting Scientific American article by Lucas Brouwers

Sunday, 6 November 2011

'There be Monsters' - the discovery of BdGPL

Farrer et al describe in PNAS the first whole-genome resequencing of Bd from isolates worldwide. This study has provided a wealth of new data, including the unexpected discovery of three divergent lineages of Bd. One lineage has only been recovered from Switzerland (BdCH) and another from South Africa and the Mediterranean island of Mallorca (BdCAPE). The third lineage, BdGPL, occurs worldwide and is the only lineage associated with declines in Europe (Pyrenees & Iberia), Central America, North America (Sierra Nevadas) and Australia. Laboratory tests show that BdGPL is hypervirulent when compared to BdCAPE, and emerged some time in the 20th Century. Genomic patterns in BdGPL shows that it arose only once and is likely a hybrid. So, what is this data telling us? Firstly, the intercontinental spread of Bd is clearly owing to human movement of amphibians: that is how BdCAPE came 'jump' from the African Cape to Mallorca. Secondly, BdGPL is a recombinant offspring resulting from mating between two lineages of Bd. Whether these were brought together by the trade in amphibians resulting in the creation of a 'fungal superbug' remains to be determined.
Links to news stories in the New Scientist, NERC Planet Earth and the BBC.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Amphibian immunity is associated with resistance to Bd

Savage and Zamudio report in PNAS that survival following infection by Bd is associated with major histocompatability genotype. Two of the five experimental infected populations of lowland leopard frogs (Lithobates yavapaiensis) had significantly elevated survival. This survival was associated with alleles at MHC class IIB and heterozygosity at the locus (see figure). This observation likely has wider significance; for instance Tobler and Schmidt have demonstrated among-population variation in survival for Swiss populations of midwives Alytes obstetricans (PLoS One). Therefore, Evolutionary Conservation, by breeding for resistance, is increasingly looking like a viable tool to combat chytridiomycosis. The hunt is on!

High Prevalence of Bd in Gabon

Bell et al  have reported in Ecohealth a high prevalence of Bd from two national parks in Gabon, Monts de Cristal and Ivindo. Bd was detected in 20 of the 42 species and was present at all three sites surveyed with high prevalence (19.6%–36.0%). Both national parks were Bd-positive at all elevations and across habitat types, though no dead or dying frogs were encountered. This last observation is in keeping with those made in other regions of Africa, barring dieoffs reported from Kihansi and the Drakensburg. Bell et al's report contrasts with those of Gratwick et al who sampled other regions of Gabon: all were negative. Therefore, there appears to be a high degree of spatial heterogeneity in the prevalence of Bd in Gabon which begs the question, Why?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Press coverage in the Pyrenees

Matthew Fisher and Dirk Schmeller, an English and a German researcher, out to save the world for the Midwife toad in the Pyrenees. That is about the summary of our recent appearance on the French regional TV channel France 3. In between our field work, and just before testing the RACE-Duster on a steep forest road, we also had an interview by La Republique. Finally, earlier this year, the Moulis group starred in another short report for France 3, covering the region of Midi-Pyrenees. You can find the reports under the following links

France 3 - Aquitaine Soir3 (at about 3:40)

France 3 - Aquitaine 19:20 (at about 19 min)

La Republique

France 3 - Midi-Pyrenees

Btw. in case you have missed it on the Aquitaine report, Matthew made sure that the camerawoman films my best side. Check the reflection in the window.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

CJM 'Emerging infectious mycoses'

The Conference Jacques Monod meeting on 'Emerging Infectious Fungi' at Roscoff, Bretagne, has just occurred. Organised by Mat Fisher & Tatiana Giraud, the meeting focused on gathering the 'state of the art' together to identify common themes between the 'red' (animal) and 'green' (plant) emerging fungi. Much of what was discussed focused on the role of transcontinental vectoring of pathogens and lack of coherent biosecurity worldwide. Presentations also focused on the mechanisms that generate lineages with enhanced virulence, and ability to switch to new hosts. Ecological mechanisms allowing penetrance of novel fungi into new environments were discussed and genomic tools to track rapidly evolving lineages were detailed. From the meeting, it was clear that we have a proactive and highly knowlegeable community with the ability to speak with one voice. To prevent the further attrition of biodiversity worldwide we need to use this skill to influence those with the power to leverage changes to current practice.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

UV-B lowers the prevalence of Bd infection

Spanish and UK researchers have shown that common toad tadpoles shielded from environmental UV-B radiation have a higher prevalence of infection compared to animals that were exposed to natural levels of UV-B. This association was also observed for the European midwife Alytes, where the prevalence of infection across the Iberian peninsula was inversly correlated with the intensity of natural UV-B. While it is not known why this inverse association occurs the research, published in Conservation Biology, suggests that increasing UVB may affect host behaviour, making transmission of Bd more unlikely, or may stimulate natural the antimicrobial properties of amphibians to reduce infection rates. The research illustrates the importance of considering multiple stressors when analyzing the complex ecological dynamics of infection by Bd.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Global pandemic affects amphibians – Are you ready to react?

After the publication, we received over 500 responses for the moment, most of them from France, but also from Germany, Spain, Italy, Norway and other European countries. Please, help us spreading the word about this research. The questionnaire exists in three languages


Find below the original post.

Please help our research! Currently, we have few means for treating Bd in the wild, and only an active prevention strategy can reduce the further spread of the fungus, and help save our amphibian species. In mountainous regions, walkers, hikers, naturalists, and inhabitants can intervene. Simple gestures may slow down the epidemic, but are you ready to change your habitats? Researchers need to better understand the mechanism of propagation of this pathogen. To assist this research, the RACE project collects data on hiking habits and attitude towards possible conservation measures to stop the spread of this fungus and further amphibian declines. This survey will help this group of researchers to develop mitigation and conservation strategies that are adapted to the public.

Our survey will take you only about 15 minutes and your responses are extremely important and valuable to the researchers!

Please help us and thank you by answering sincerely!
Start the survey here


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Elevated temperature clears chytrid fungus infections from tadpoles of the midwife toad

A new study by Corina Geiger et al. (University of Zurich, Switzerland) that was recently published in the journal Amphibia-Reptilia shows that prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures clears chytrid fungus infection in tadpoles of the midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans).
The article is available at
For PDF reprints, send a mail to ├Ąt

Monday, 18 April 2011

Shiver Bd! New review on mitigation methods published

A team of amphibian conservation biologists led by Doug Woodhams (University of Zurich, Switzerland) published a review on methods how to mitigate the effects of Bd and chytridiomycosis. The review was published in the open access online journal Frontiers in Zoology:

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Austrian data comes online...

Marc Sztatecsny and Florian Glaser have published the first survey of Bd from Austria in the Herpetological Journal 21:87-90. 30% of sampled sites are positive for 9 species including Bombina bombina. The study detected Bd at the highest site in the European Alps to date at 1630 m a.s.l. in Alpine newts. This data is now publically available on and the global mapping site

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Opportunities to join RACE

If you would like to join RACE, here's an opportunity for funding! There are open calls for Marie Curie fellowships:

If you would like to join the RACE team, then please contact one of the RACE team leaders.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Bd population genomics at Asilomar

The bi-annual 26th Fungal Genetics Conference at Asilomar saw a flurry of Bd-related activity being reported. Both Rhys Farrer (Imperial College) and Jason Staijch (UC Riverside) gave talks on the population genomics of Bd from geographically and genetically diverse strains. Both studies report patchy distributions of diversity across Bd's genome, likely owing to loss-of-heterozygosity events. Whether this results from meiotic or mitotic events remains to be seen. Jason reported the release of his comparative genomics tool, FungiDB; this is going to be a great asset to the community, great stuff Jason! Posters were exhibited on putative virulence factors (the CBM18 chitin-binding domain gene expansion: Abramyan & Stajich), the distribution of Bd in British Columbia (LeBlanc, Hintz & Anholt), functional genomics of Bd (Thomas Poorten & Rosenblum), the detection of rhodopsin-like genes in Bd that are indicative of phototactic responses (Medina, Restrepo & Stajich) and the population genomics of Bd (Rhys Farrer et al). Well done to Rhys for winning a poster prize, 'Eukaryotic Cell' is a great bedtime read.....The poster abstracts can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

RACEing ahe.........ah, you know

Currently sitting in the 3rd meeting of the RACE network, rather the extended RACE network, as this meeting is well-attended by extraRACErs (Giulia Tessa, Italy, Vojtech Balaz, Czech Republich, Goncalo Rosa, Portugal, Emilien Luquet, France). The meeting is a success due to the contributions of the PhD students (half of the attendees and the majority of the presentations). Topics range from modelling disease dynamics, mitigation, Bd genomics, spatial epidemiology, assessing effects in wild amphibian populations, trade, policy.....meeting our RACE deliverables is certainly RACEing ahead, thanks to the outstanding science done by these students. However, it's very clear that there are far more issues to hand than those being addressed. More later.....