Scientists warn that the new-found “salamander-eating” fungus will be impossible to stop in case it spreads to wild animals. A fatal “salamander-eating fungus that is by now thwarting the European amphibians is ubiquitous in the pet trade, stimulating inducing fears that it could spread to the UK’s in danger newts.Great crested newts are among the endangered species that could be destroyed if the deadly “Bsal” infection spreads from pet stocks.
In a study that is partly funded by the British government, scientists discovered that 7 of the 11 reserved amphibian collections from the Western European region tested positive for the “Bsal” infection.
In case you are not aware of the “Bsal” infection, it is a disease caused by Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, a type of fungus that has spread like wildfire originating from Asia and wiped off 99% of fire salamanders in the Netherlands.
Not only salamanders, but frogs too are resisting deadly fungus responsible for “extinction crisis.”
Experts have expressed their concern about some of the British newts, which are already rocking on the edge of the extinction with all thanks to intensive farming and habitat loss, might be the next victims of this epidemic.
They have cautioned that if the infection crosses the threshold and enters the wild livestock it will be out of the question to stop them.
The name “salamandrivorans” literally translates into “salamander eating”, a reference to its fatality and the devastation of amphibian skin resultant from infection.
With the most recent UK figures signifying over 100,000 amphibians are imported legitimately each year as pets, making Europe one of the major importers of live amphibians.
Professor Andrew Cunningham from the Zoological Society of London said, “The presence of Bsal in amphibian collections increases the risk of Bsal infection being transferred to nearby wild amphibian populations, for example, through contaminated wastewater or released or escaped animals.”
“The critical control point here is the prevention of the fungus being introduced into amphibian collections in the first place.”
The EU recently introduced new rules and regulations to curb the trade of captive newts and salamanders after years of relatively unregulated trade, to prevent the disease from spreading further.
One of the biggest concern for scientists is that Bsal will take on the epidemic proportions of Bd, a closely associated disease that has destroyed hundreds of amphibian species around the globe and caused many to go extinct.
Study leader Dr. Liam Fitzpatrick said, “Once the fungus is in a wild population it is likely to be impossible to stop its spread and the loss of susceptible species.”
“We already know that Bsal can be lethal to a number of European salamander species, so understanding ways in which the fungus could be introduced to new areas is essential in our efforts to conserve wild amphibians.”
Scientists strive to save frogs from extinction
Bsal does not pose a massive risk to toads and frogs unlike its sister disease Bd.
After publishing their work in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers called for sanitization guidance and biosecurity to be provided to those working in the pet trade so that the problem can be nipped in the bud.
Professor Cunningham said, “This will help ensure that both traded individuals are healthy, and our wild populations of amphibians are protected – before it’s too late.”