DAO 124:233-239 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03125

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Virulence variation among strains of the emerging infectious fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in multiple amphibian host species

Trang D. Dang1,*, Catherine L. Searle2, Andrew R. Blaustein

1Department of Integrative Biology, Cordley Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, Lilly Hall of Life Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Emerging infectious diseases have been documented in numerous plant and animal populations. The infectious disease amphibian chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is associated with global amphibian population declines. While much Bd-amphibian research has centered on response variation in hosts, a paucity of information exists on how variation in the pathogen, such as strain differences, affects infection dynamics. To examine how different Bd strains may differentially impact multiple hosts, we conducted laboratory experiments to measure 2 infection outcomes, viz. host survival and pathogen load, in 3 amphibian host species (Pacific treefrog, western toad, and Cascades frog) after exposure to 3 different Bd strains (an additional fourth Bd strain was tested in toads only). Our results confirm that the infection response differs among host species. Western toads experienced significant mortality, but Pacific treefrogs and Cascades frogs did not. Interestingly, our experiment also captured strain-dependent virulence variation but only in 1 host species, the western toad. Increased mortality was observed in 2 of the 4 Bd strains tested in this host species. Toads were also the only host species found to have variable pathogen load dependent on strain type; individuals exposed to the Panama strain harbored significantly higher loads compared to all other strains. These findings underscore the dynamic nature of Bd infection, showing that virulence can vary contingent on host and strain type. We highlight the importance of both host- and pathogen-dependent factors in determining overall infection virulence and show the need for in vivo testing to fully assess pathogenicity.


KEY WORDS: Virulence · Chytridiomycosis · Strain · Parasite · Amphibian disease


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Cite this article as: Dang TD, Searle CL, Blaustein AR (2017) Virulence variation among strains of the emerging infectious fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in multiple amphibian host species. Dis Aquat Org 124:233-239. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03125

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