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Assessing the ability of swab data to determine the true burden of infection for the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

Clare, F; Daniel, O; Garner, T; Fisher, M; (2016) Assessing the ability of swab data to determine the true burden of infection for the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. EcoHealth , 13 (2) pp. 360-367. 10.1007/s10393-016-1114-z. Green open access

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Abstract

Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a pathogenic fungus which causes the disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians by infecting the animals’ epidermis. The most commonly applied method for the detection of Bd is the use of a sterile swab, rubbed over the keratinized areas of an amphibian and then processed to yield DNA for detection by qPCR. This method has been used to infer a threshold of lethal infection in some species; however, how reliable and reproducible the swabbing method is at detecting the true burden of infection suffered by individuals is not known. European midwife toads, Alytes obstetricans, are susceptible to chytridiomycosis and are highly parasitised by Bd across Europe. By quantifying Bd-load throughout the entire skin and comparing this to swab results taken from the same individual, we determined whether epidermal swabs provide a quantifiable and accurate indication of the true fungal burden suffered. Further, we examined whether we could infer a threshold for lethal infection based on comparison of swab data taken from infected A. obstetricans exhibiting different clinical states. From swab data, we detected significantly higher fungal burdens from moribund metamorphs compared to visually healthy individuals; however, the ability of these swab data to provide an accurate indication of the true fungal burden was not reliable. These data suggest that fungal load dynamics play an important role in disease-induced mortality in A. obstetricans at these sites, but that using swab data to infer an exact threshold for Bd-associated mortality might be inappropriate and misleading.

Type: Article
Title: Assessing the ability of swab data to determine the true burden of infection for the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s10393-016-1114-z
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10393-016-1114-z
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com.
Keywords: Emerging infectious diseases, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, infection threshold, qPCR, chytridiomycosis, Alytes obstetricans
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1489704
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