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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 148:1-11 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03628

Seasonal variation in the prevalence of a fungal pathogen and unexpected clearance from infection in a susceptible frog species

James I. Garnham*, Deborah S. Bower, Michelle P. Stockwell, Evan J. Pickett, Carla J. Pollard, John Clulow, Michael J. Mahony

School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales 2308, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) causes the disease chytridiomycosis, which is a primary driver for amphibian population declines and extinctions worldwide. For highly susceptible species, such as the green and golden bell frog Litoria aurea, large numbers of Bd-related mortalities are thought to occur during the colder season (winter), when low temperatures favour the growth of the pathogen. However, extant L. aurea populations are persisting with Bd. We measured Bd prevalence and infection levels of wild L. aurea using capture-mark-recapture and radio-tracking methods. Using this information, we sought to determine host and environmental correlates of Bd prevalence and infection load. Mean ± SE infection load was higher in frogs sampled in autumn (431.5 ± 310.4 genomic equivalents; GE) and winter (1147.5 ± 735.8 GE), compared to spring (21.8 ± 19.3 GE) and summer (0.9 ± 0.8 GE). Furthermore, prevalence of Bd infection in L. aurea was highest in winter (43.6%; 95% CI 33.1-54.7%) and lowest in summer (11.2%; 95% CI 6.8-17.9%). Both prevalence and infection load decreased with increasing temperature. Seven frogs cleared their fungal infection during the coolest months when Bd prevalence was highest; however, these clearances were not permanent, as 5 frogs became infected again. Understanding the factors that allow amphibians to clear their Bd infections when temperatures are optimal for Bd growth presents the potential for manipulating such factors and provides an important step in future research.


KEY WORDS: Amphibian · Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Chytridiomycosis · Conservation · Disease · Litoria aurea · Infection clearance · Temperature · Persistence


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Cite this article as: Garnham JI, Bower DS, Stockwell MP, Pickett EJ, Pollard CJ, Clulow J, Mahony MJ (2022) Seasonal variation in the prevalence of a fungal pathogen and unexpected clearance from infection in a susceptible frog species. Dis Aquat Org 148:1-11. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03628

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