Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a lethal fungus that causes chytridiomycosis – a deadly disease that is wiping out hundreds of amphibian species. The pathogen affects the keratin in the skin of amphibians and is spreading across Africa, killing out or driving to the verge of extinction hundreds of amphibian species.
The Deadly Fungus
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis was first discovered in Queensland, Australia, in the 1990s after a number of frog species were found dead. The fungus is believed to spread through spores discharged into water from amphibian skin. In Queensland, it has been linked to the extinction of over 200 amphibian species.
Fatal to Frogs
By infecting their skin, chytridiomycosis kills frogs by causing skin shedding and other symptoms including ulcers. Frogs and other amphibians carry out vital ion transfer between their skin layers and take in oxygen through their skin. According to a study published in the journal Science, fungal infection is to blame for the global population reduction of 39 per cent of frog species.
The Role of Climate Change
Previous studies have found that climate change may actually be beneficial for the fungus. This is because increased cloud cover brought on by climate change may lead to cooler daytime temperatures and warmer nighttime temperatures, which would be more conducive to the growth of the microscopic fungus. However, climate change could also bring about more hot, arid, and dry conditions, which could be harmful to the fungus as it cannot thrive over 86 degrees Fahrenheit and needs moist settings to spread its spores.
Impact on Humans
Chytridiomycosis is the closest human disease resembling the Black Death outbreak of bubonic plague in the middle of the fourteenth century that killed one-third of Europe’s population in five years in terms of magnitude.