DAO 55:65-67 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/dao055065

Emerging disease of amphibians cured by elevated body temperature

Douglas C. Woodhams1,*, Ross A. Alford1, Gerry Marantelli2

1School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2Amphibian Research Centre, PO Box 424, Brunswick, Victoria 3056, Australia

ABSTRACT: The emerging infectious disease chytridiomycosis is thought to have contributed to many of the recent alarming declines in amphibian populations. Mortalities associated with these declines have often occurred during cooler seasons and at high elevations, suggesting that environmental temperature may be an important factor in disease emergence. We found that thermal environment affects the progress of the disease, and that housing frogs Litoria chloris at an environmental temperature of 37°C for less than 16 h can clear them of the chytrid pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Our experiment demonstrated that elevated body temperatures similar to those experienced in behavioral fever and during normal thermoregulation can clear frogs of chytrid infection; therefore, variation in thermoregulatory opportunities and behaviors are likely to contribute to the differences in disease incidence observed among host species, populations, and regions. Although further refinement of the technique is needed to encompass various host species, appropriately applied thermal manipulations of amphibians and their enclosures may prove to be a safe and effective way of eliminating the fungal pathogen from captive amphibian populations and preventing accidental spread of the pathogen when animals are translocated or released from captivity.

KEY WORDS: Chytrid · Chytridiomycosis · Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Fungus · Amphibian · Cure · Temperature

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