We’ve been pretty quiet with what we’ve been up to lately, and that’s because we’ve been busy working on salamanders from the U.K. which have died from B.sal., reported in Vet Records today (http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/176/18/468.2.extract).
B.sal. is closely related to Bd and, like Bd, causes chytridiomycosis in susceptible amphibians. Unlike Bd, this fungus so far only appears to be capable of causing lethal chytridiomycosis in salamanders and newts, but is highly pathogenic for many species within these groups. The fungus was only described in 2013 following a 96% enigmatic decline of fire salamanders in the Netherlands in just two years. “Salamandrivorans” translates to “salamander-eating”, and is an apt description of the effects of the fungus. The thalli are intracellular, buried in the skin cells of the salamander where they cause erosive lesions. The group from Ghent University who first described B.sal. found that infected fire salamanders developed lesions and deep ulcerations all over the body, became anorexic, apathetic and suffered from neurological symptoms including a loss of voluntary movement and muscle coordination. Death followed within 7 days of symptoms first appearing.
Until now, the U.K. has been, as far as we knew, free of B.sal.. Great Crested Newts, a protected species under U.K. law, are known to be susceptible to the fungus so there are real conservation concerns following its arrival. All infected animals to date have been imported captive exotics which developed symptoms and either died or were euthanised while still under quarantine. It was possible to detect the fungus quickly and contain the infected animals due to the vigilance of the zoological collection in testing their salamanders for disease and maintaining strict quarantine procedures. Hopefully this will mean that the fungus will not have had a chance to escape into wild populations. With collaborators at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and ZSL we can now work on finding out the source of infection and whether other collections in the UK are likely to have been affected.
It is crucial to prevent this pathogen escaping into our native, wild populations of amphibians – therefore, if you are vet, a breeder, a retailer, a hobbyist, or in any other way work with amphibians it is vitally important to instigate strict biosecurity controls. Protocols appropriate for Bd are also appropriate for B.sal. and can be found here.
- Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans sp. nov. causes lethal chytridiomycosis in amphibians (2013) A. Martel, A. Spitzen-vander Sluihs, M. Blooi, W. Bert, R. Ducatelle, M.C. Fisher, A. Woeltjes, W. Bosman, K. Chiers, F. Bossuyt, F. Pasmans PNAS 110(38): 15325 – 15329
- Rapid enigmatic decline drives the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) to the edge of extinction in the Netherlands (2013) A. Spitzen-van der Sluijs, F. Spikmans, W. Bosman, M. de Zeeuw, T. van der Meij, E. Goverse, M. Kik, F. Pasmans, A. Martel