DAO 72:153-161 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao072153

Quantitative measurement of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in amphibian skin

Ché Weldon*, Louis H. Du Preez

School of Environmental Sciences and Development, North-West University, Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa

ABSTRACT: The ability to quantify infections provides a tool with which to perform comparative pathological research. The need exists for a simplistic standard method to compare infection levels of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a major cause of global amphibian declines. Through examination of skin sloughs of the Cape river frog Afrana fuscigula, we present an accessible method that not only provides quantitative measurements of B. dendrobatidis, but also provides information that increases the confidence of detection through histological surveys. The method relies on the availability of live animals that are actively shedding skin. By employing a direct microscopic count of sporangia, it is possible to express infection in terms of density. Micro-spatial infection in the skin of A. fuscigula is characterised by significant differences in sporangium density among the different components of the foot, and by similar differences in site infection frequency. Notably, toe tips and tubercles contain higher infection densities and are more often infected than webbing or the base of the foot. This pattern of infection might facilitate disease transmission due to the increased exposure of these components to abrasion. Density data can be used with the Poisson frequency function to approximate binomial probabilities of detecting B. dendrobatidis through histology. The probability matrix produced for A. fuscigula indicated that foot-site selection for histology markedly influenced the number of sections required to detect B. dendrobatidis at a specific level of probability. Thus, examination of a test sample of skin tissue with direct-count quantification can help in planning the sampling of tissues for histological surveys.

KEY WORDS: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Quantification technique · Sporangium density · Micro-spatial infection · Detection probability

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