Discovery Could Save 500+ Amphibian Species

by | Apr 19, 2024 | Education, Environment

Biologists Make Key Breakthrough

Since the 1990s, amphibians have been in trouble. A fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has devastated frog and toad populations across the globe. Within five minutes of exposure to the fungus, amphibians can experience a severe skin infection (that slowly deletes their electrolyte levels, eventually leading to heart failure and death. As a result, over 500 amphibian species have declined and a suspected 90 species have gone extinct.

Why does this matter? 

Fortunately, biologists at UC Riverside may have found a cure. In a paper published in Current Biology, they said that a new virus – BcDV-1 – can infect this fungi and decrease its virulence. Lots of viruses can infect fungi, but what’s special about BcDV-1 is that it’s a single-stranded DNA virus, which can “get stuck” in the Bd fungus’s entire genome. As a result, the fungus produces fewer spores, and, in theory, could infect fewer amphibians. This could be a real game changer in preventing the spread of Bd!

Despite this huge discovery, there is still a long way to go before these scientists can implement this virus to Bd-infected amphibians outside of the lab. First of all, Bd is difficult to study in the laboratory, so scientists don’t know exactly how BcDVI-1 infects the fungus. And although the virus has been proven to reduce the amount of spores Bd produces, it also may increase Bd’s mortality in amphibians already infected with the fungus. Needless to say, the future of amphibian conservation looks a bit more promising, but there are definitely a lot of things to iron out.

In any case, here at Turning Green, we’re rooting for more discoveries like this that can save our native amphibian species. We hope that these biologists continue to make progress in their  honorable work!

Learn more about how these UC Riverside biologists are curing this pandemic here: Discovery could end global amphibian pandemic | ScienceDaily

And if you’re interested in reading the paper itself, it’s open access and can be read here: