Novel early-detection method aims to prevent disease spread in animal trade

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As part of a project to develop a simplified method for detecting a deadly fungus that kills European salamanders, a research team recently examined new ones with rough skin. Credit: Jesse Brunner

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As part of a project to develop a simplified method for detecting a deadly fungus that kills European salamanders, a research team recently examined new ones with rough skin. Credit: Jesse Brunner

A new one Article published in the magazine Methods of ecology and evolution Researchers describe a simple method to detect a deadly fungus that kills European salamanders. Although the disease is not found in the United States, the ability to quickly detect the fungus is significant because it affects millions of amphibians and salamanders imported annually.

The fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, threatens salamander diversity. Initially identified in northern Europe, evidence suggests it was introduced from Southeast Asia via the pet trade.

„The impacts of Bsal in Europe were unique, but included some of the most severe population declines we’ve seen,” said Jesse Bruner, the study’s principal investigator and associate professor at Washington State University. „A large, diverse group of researchers, government biologists and amphibian lovers in the pet trade are working hard to avoid such devastating impacts.”

Despite the temporary U.S. ban on importing about 200 salamander species, Brunner noted that researchers’ focus is on preparing for the potential influx and protecting the amphibians. To address that concern, the research team developed a non-invasive method for rapid detection of Bsal that outperforms conventional individual animal infection determinations and tests environmental DNA for Bsal DNA to assess the spread of the pathogen.

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„Our approach instead focused on detecting Bsal in a population of animals in aquariums or similar habitats, if any of those animals were infected,” he said. „It’s a measure that can help inspectors at borders or workers in pet trade facilities make sure Bsal isn’t present. It gives us a way to see this invisible pathogen.”

More information:
Jesse L. Brunner et al, Environmental DNA-based detection of pathogens in the commercial and captive setting: best practices and validation for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, Methods of ecology and evolution (2023) DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.14217

Press Information:
Methods of ecology and evolution


Presented by the Morris Animal Foundation

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