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Fungal diseases are threatening many amphibian species throughout the world

A new study determines the worldwide impact of a fatal fungal disease called chytridiomycosis. The disease destroys the skin of amphibians and is causing a massive decline in over 500 species of amphibians, 90 of which have gone extinct in the last 50 years.

“What’s new here is the worldwide picture of the numbers. For the first time, we’re able to look at the global scale and say how many species have been affected, how many have gone extinct and how many may have potential for recovery,” explained Lips. “I’ve done detailed work in Panama, for example, while others have focused elsewhere. But this is the first study to pull all these findings together in a coordinated, methodical way.”

“Highly virulent wildlife diseases, including chytridiomycosis, are contributing to the Earth’s sixth mass extinction,” said the research paper’s lead author, Dr. Ben Scheele. “We’ve lost some really amazing species. Knowing what species are at risk can help target future research to develop conservation actions to prevent extinctions.”

“Ben and his team at the Australian National University came up with some rules of thumb to put hard numbers on estimated declines due to chytridiomycosis. They applied this method to Australia first, then got lots of researchers from around the world to help round out the global picture,” added Lips. “This fills in some crucial gaps, especially since the IUCN has not done a global amphibian assessment since 2004. Even then, IUCN looked at declines from a more general perspective. This method allowed us to quantify the global threat of chytrid fungus specifically.”

Scheele observed that over 40 species of Australian frogs have declined in the last 30 years, 7 of which have gone extinct.

“Globalization and wildlife trade are the main causes of this global pandemic and are enabling the spread of disease to continue,” Scheele further said. “Humans are moving plants and animals around the world at an increasingly rapid rate, introducing pathogens into new areas. We’ve got to do everything possible to stop future pandemics, by having better control over wildlife trade around the world.”