DAO 118:11-20 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02963

Infection and transmission heterogeneity of a multi-host pathogen (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) within an amphibian community

S. Fernández-Beaskoetxea1, J. Bosch1,2,*, J. Bielby

1Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain
2Centro de Investigación, Seguimiento y Evaluación, Parque Nacional de la Sierra de Guadarrama, Cta. M-604, Km. 27.6, 28740 Rascafría, Spain
3The Institute of Zoology, The Zoological Society of London, London NW1 4RY, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The majority of parasites infect multiple hosts. As the outcome of the infection is different in each of them, most studies of wildlife disease focus on the few species that suffer the most severe consequences. However, the role that each host plays in the persistence and transmission of infection can be crucial to understanding the spread of a parasite and the risk it poses to the community. Current theory predicts that certain host species can modulate the infection in other species by amplifying or diluting both infection prevalence and infection intensity, both of which have implications for disease risk within those communities. The fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the causal agent of the disease chytridiomycosis, has caused global amphibian population declines and extinctions. However, not all infected species are affected equally, and thus Bd is a good example of a multi-host pathogen that must ultimately be studied with a community approach. To test whether the common midwife toad Alytes obstetricans is a reservoir and possible amplifier of infection of other species, we used experimental approaches in captive and wild populations to determine the effect of common midwife toad larvae on infection of other amphibian species found in the Peñalara Massif, Spain. We observed that the most widely and heavily infected species, the common midwife toad, may be amplifying the infection loads in other species, all of which have different degrees of susceptibility to Bd infection. Our results have important implications for performing mitigation actions focused on potential ‘amplifier’ hosts and for better understanding the mechanisms of Bd transmission.


KEY WORDS: Alytes obstetricans · Amphibian assemblage · Chytrid fungus · Interspecific transmission · Peñalara Massif · Spain


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Cite this article as: Fernández-Beaskoetxea S, Bosch J, Bielby J (2016) Infection and transmission heterogeneity of a multi-host pathogen (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) within an amphibian community. Dis Aquat Org 118:11-20. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02963

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