Way back in a few editions of Animalcules, several of the submissions mentioned a fungus that was killing frogs. Wednesday at the ASM meeting suggested that there may be a way to protect these amphibians:
First in a petri dish and now on live salamanders, probiotic bacteria seem to repel a deadly fungus being blamed for worldwide amphibian deaths and even extinctions. Though the research is in its early stages, scientists are encouraged by results that could lead the way to helping threatened species like mountain yellow-legged frogs of the Sierra Nevada mountains of southern California.
Experiments have shown that Pedobacter cryoconitis, bacteria found naturally on the skin of red-backed salamanders, wards off the deadly chytridiomycosis fungus. In late 2004, Australian researchers cited chytridiomycosis as one of the main factors imperiling up to one third of the world’s amphibian populations.
“The exciting aspect is that we identified at least one bacterium from the skin that in both the dish and on the salamander aids the healing process…one species of bacteria which you could tentatively view as a probiotic,” says Reid Harris, biology professor at James Madison University.
Harris hatched the idea of using the bacteria to fight the skin fungus while researching another amphibian killer, a fungus that attacks their eggs and embryos. Research by other scientists indicated bacteria on some amphibians produced compounds that were active against the egg fungus.
“There will have to be careful testing,” says Harris. “Just because on the Petri plate you find a species of bacteria that is anti-chytrid doens’t mean it’s going to be anti-chytrid on the amphibian. So we’re going to have to do some tests to make sure which ones are actually most effective on the organism. But we did find one.”
Eventually, the research could lead to procedures for “vaccinating” endangered populations, Harris said. Other questions, such as whether bacteria from one species could be used to help another, could also be addressed with future research.
Source: ASM press release.
Image from http://www.the-ba.net/NR/rdonlyres/FB0C0DB4-5D14-414A-B112-5ADD692125B7/0/frog.jpg