Crisis biology: Can bacteria save bats and frogs from deadly diseases?
As populations plummet, biologists race for a solution.
In 2007, Valerie McKenzie volunteered for a large study of human body bacteria. It was the dawn of the golden age of the microbe. Researchers were just beginning to understand how bacteria and other microbes in human intestines influence everything from obesity to allergies and infections. McKenzie, a University of Colorado-Boulder biologist, was mildly curious about her "microbiome." But she was more interested in the bacteria living on the skin of frogs and toads.
Amphibian populations worldwide are plummeting, and entire species are going extinct. The West's struggling species include boreal toads and mountain yellow-legged frogs. Invasive species and habitat degradation play a major role, but amphibians are dying even in places with good habitat. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, an aggressive fungus commonly known as chytrid, is often to blame.
McKenzie, who was studying the role of farmland conversion and suburbanization in the decline of leopard frogs in Colorado, suspected chytrid was also a factor. When she read a paper about a strain of bacteria found on red-backed salamanders that inhibited chytrid's growth, she began to wonder: What microbes lived on the skin of her frogs and toads? And could any of them fight chytrid?
Infected Tasmanian devils reveal how cancer cells evolve in response to humans
Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) has ravaged the world's largest carnivorous marsupial since it emerged in 1996, resulting in a population decline of over 90%. Conservation work to defeat the disease has including removing infected individuals from the population and new research explains how this gives us a unique opportunity to understand how human selection alters the evolution of cancerous cells.
DFTD is an asexually reproducing clonal cell line, which during the last 16 years has been exposed to negative effects as infected devils, approximately 33% of the population, have been removed from one site, the Forestier Peninsula, in Tasmania between 2006 and 2010.
Other Wildlife Health Related News
- Health Officials Issue Warning About Sick Raccoons [California, USA]
- Signs of foot-and-mouth disease found in some gaur carcasses [Kui Buri National Park, Thailand]
- Deer tests positive for chronic wasting disease [Maryland, USA]
- Wintertime in Vole Country [CDFW Wildlife Investigation Lab blog]
- White-Nose Syndrome harms bat population [Wisconsin, USA]
- Biologist: Vermont bats begin white nose recovery [Vermont, USA]
- Bat disease found farther south and east in the state [Georgia Department of Natural Resources Bulletin][Georgia, USA]
- UGA One Health symposium to focus on malaria
- AHT Infectious Disease Group receives NEF Commendation [United Kingdom]
- Rabies in two big brown bats in Saskatchewan [Canada]