Amphibian microbiome could be key to fighting deadly fungal disease - Natural History Museum

Bacteria and fungi living on amphibians could help in the fight against a deadly fungal disease.

Frogs with less diverse microbiomes are more severely affected by chytridiomycosis than those with a greater range of microbes, suggesting possible new treatments.

Scientists looking to stop a devastating disease which has pushed amphibians into extinction may have found a clue to stopping it.

Chytridiomycosis is a fungal disease which has been implicated in the extinction of over 90 amphibian species in the past 50 years, as well as causing declines in hundreds more.

Australian researchers found that frogs with a more diverse set of bacteria and fungi living on their body, collectively known as the microbiome, may be better able to resist the disease.

Dr Donald McKnight, who led the research, says, 'Why some species and populations are able to survive chytridiomycosis, and others are susceptible, is not entirely clear, but variations in microbiomes may play a key role. In our study, lace-lid frogs showed the lowest ability to recover and were also the species with the fewest types of bacteria and fungi present on it. That matches what some other studies have found and suggests that diverse microbiomes may be important.'

Their findings also suggest that the presence of bacteria which inhibit chytridiomycosis is not itself enough to stop the disease.

'Lace-lids had high levels of anti-fungal bacteria that are thought to play a protective role against chytridiomycosis,' Donald adds. 'In fact, the individuals with the highest levels of chytridiomycosis also tended to be the individuals with the highest levels of anti-fungal bacteria. This was really surprising.'

The research, published in the journal Ecosphere, opens new avenues for scientists and conservationists to consider in their battle against chytridiomycosis.

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Posted On: 19/07/2022

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