Fire salamanders from Europe are in danger, as a deadly fungus spread among their populations and started making thousands of victims. The fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans led to the death of numerous specimens from Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The infection affected their skin, causing skin necrosis and, eventually, death.
A team of researchers from the University of Zurich developed a study in which they analyzed the effect of this terrible fungus on salamanders. Benedikt Schmidt, the lead author, declared that their findings were not encouraging at all. They found that only 13 percent of the salamanders affected by B. salamandrivorans were able to survive for ten days after they had contracted the fungus.
The fungus, a deadly pathogen
However, this was not the only result they had found. During the same period, one third of the healthy salamanders became infected. It is not unusual that the infection should spread and reduce an entire population of animals by more than half, driving it close to extinction.
The fungus is believed to have been brought from Asia with the amphibian trade. Before combating its effects, researchers are trying to stop its expanse and prevent it from reaching other areas. Actually, the fungus might be difficult to stop once it reached a host.
They described the pathogen as the “devourer of salamanders”, as it leads to death in 90 percent of the cases. Also, salamanders are vulnerable to it and cannot develop resistance to the fungus. Its spores can survive even the direst environmental conditions, and only a few of them are necessary to infect a salamander and eventually kill it.
Extreme measures to prevent the expansion of the fungus
B. salamandrivorans does not stop at one victim. Researchers discovered that it might continue lingering in an area even after it had already destroyed a population. Thus, it might adapt and come to affect even more resistant animals. This is why the scientists emphasized the importance of stopping it from expanding.
European scientists started a research program which aimed to find a way to keep this pathogen under control. As it spreads really quickly, some European countries, including Switzerland, and the United States, banned the shipping of salamanders as pets. This might sound like an extreme measure, but it might be the only way to stop the expansion of the “devourer of salamanders”.
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