Left to Right: Tabby Cavendish (Great Smoky Mountains NP), Brian Gregory (USGS), and Jamie Barichivich (ARMI) swabbing salamanders for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in Rockhouse Cave, Wheeler NWR, Alabama. Photo by: Alan Cressler.
ARMI conducts original research on various amphibian diseases in the lab and field. Our research has included estimating the impacts of diseases on the growth of populations, developing and testing potential treatments, affects of stressors on susceptibility to disease, how diseases are transmitted in the wild, and how to model disease distributions and spread.
ARMI disease research is conducted throughout the country, but ARMI pathologist Dr. David Green is based at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and coordinates the health screenings and investigations of amphibian mortalities (e.g., identification, pathology) in addition to collaborating on many disease research projects.
Amphibians at our long-term monitoring sites are periodically screened for diseases and we investigate mass mortality events.
National Wildlife Health Center - ARMI
ARMI Products on Disease
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Experimental evidence for American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) susceptibility to chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis)
Authors: Gervasi SS, Urbina J, Hua J, Chestnut T, Relyea RA, Blaustein AR | Date: 2013-03-29 | Outlet: EcoHealth DOI: 10.1007/s10393-013-0832-8 | Format: URL
The emerging fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been associated with global amphibian population declines and extinctions. American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) are widely reported to be a tolerant host and a carrier of Bd that spreads the pathogen to less tolerant hosts. Here, we examined whether bullfrogs raised from eggs to metamorphosis in outdoor mesocosms were susceptible to Bd. We experimentally exposed metamorphic juveniles to Bd in the laboratory and compared mortality rates of pathogen-exposed animals to controls (non-exposed) in two separate experiments; one using a Bd strain isolated from a Western toad and another using a strain isolated from an American bullfrog. We wanted to examine whether metamorphic bullfrogs were susceptible to either of these strains. We show that bullfrogs were susceptible to one strain of Bd and not the other. In both experiments, infection load detected in the skin decreased over time, suggesting that metamorphic bullfrogs from some populations may be inefficient long- term carriers of Bd.
Prevalence of the amphibian chytrid fungus (Bd) at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona
Authors: Sigafus B, Schwalbe C, Hossack B, Muths E | Outlet: Herpetological Review | Format: .PDF
Prevalence of the amphibian chytrid fungus on Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is low. Very few bullfrogs (a carrier of Bd) on the refuge test positive and very few Chiricahua Leopard Frogs test positive (only at sites off of the refuge). Bullfrogs have been nearly eradicated from the refuge, but because they carry the disease, there is potential for bullfrogs to act as a vector, carrying the disease to the Chiricahua Leopard Frogs which are an endangered species if they move back onto the refuge.
USGS Point Reyes
Expression analysis and identification of antimicrobial peptide transcripts from six North American frog species
Authors: Robertson LS, Fellers GM, Marranca JM, Kleeman PM | Date: 2013-06 | Outlet: Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 104:225-236 | Format: URL
Frogs secrete antimicrobial peptides onto their skin. We describe an assay to preserve and analyze antimicrobial peptide transcripts from field-collected skin secretions that will complement existing methods for peptide analysis. We collected skin secretions from 4 North American species in the field in California and 2 species in the laboratory. Most frogs appeared healthy after release; however, Rana boylii in the Sierra Nevada foothills, but not the Coast Range, showed signs of morbidity and 2 died after handling. The amount of total RNA extracted from skin secretions was higher in R. boylii and R. sierra compared to R. draytonii, and much higher compared to Pseudacris regilla. Interspecies variation in amount of RNA extracted was not explained by size, but for P. regilla it depended upon collection site and date. RNA extracted from skin secretions from frogs handled with bare hands had poor quality compared to frogs handled with gloves or plastic bags. Thirty-four putative antimicrobial peptide precursor transcripts were identified. This study demonstrates that RNA extracted from skin secretions collected in the field is of high quality suitable for use in sequencing or quantitative PCR (qPCR). However, some species do not secrete profusely, resulting in very little extracted RNA. The ability to measure transcript abundance of antimicrobial peptides in field-collected skin secretions complements proteomic analyses and may provide insight into transcriptional mechanisms that could affect peptide abundance.